Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pope Hats #3

by Ethan Rilly

I was very excited to be able to pick up the latest issue of Ethan Rilly's excellent comics series Pope Hats at Word on the Street last week.  This book festival regularly disappoints, but with this single purchase, it was all worth while, even braving a bit of a downpour.

Pope Hats follows two women, Frances and Vickie, who have both spent years trying to establish themselves in their chosen professions.  Frances is an insomniac law clerk, and Vickie is an aspiring actress.  Last issue, Frances received a promotion, splitting her time between serving the kind and reasonable Seagull, and the imperious senior partner Castonguay.  Now, she finds herself completely snowed under by work and the exhausting oneupmanship, back biting, and careerism that define her workplace.  Vickie, meanwhile, has finally landed herself a part in a TV pilot, and is planning a move to California.

The book follows a slow and meandering path through the two womens' daily lives, although it is clear that Frances is the main character and the heart of the series.  We also get to see much more of her co-workers, including the unfortunate lawyer Nina, who has watched her billable hours decline because of her colleague's active sabotage, and who resorts to having to gamble on the Machiavellian intentions of Castonguay.

Vickie has a sizeable presence in this issue, but she still remains a rather elusive character.  When sober, she is capable of insight and self-reflection, but she is rarely sober.

Rilly's work reads like the best of Adrian Tomine's.  He presents snippets of quotidian existence, making good use of humour and a clean, natural drawing ability.  His plot moves slowly, as life does, and he cuts quickly from scene to scene to maintain momentum.  The more magical realist elements of the first issue (like the ghost that Frances talks to) are gone from the series, as Rilly focuses his story on the contrasts between Frances and Vickie.

Rilly rounds out this issue with a trio of narrated strips.  There are two comics adaptions from Spalding Gray's Morning, Noon and Night, and an interview with the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.  They are odd choices, but they are also good reads.

I look forward to reading the next Pope Hats, whenever it may come out.  If it sounds like something you would like, it is solicited in the latest issue of Previews - let your comic shop know you want it!

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