Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pope Hats #5

by Ethan Rilly

There is no comic more associated in my mind with TCAF - the Toronto Comic Arts Festival - than Ethan Rilly's Pope Hats, a title that I've bought almost every issue of at that annual festival.

This year, I didn't even know that there was going to be a new issue, so I was excited and happy to see a nice shiny stack of the new, 64-page issue at Rilly's table.

This issue returns to Frances and Vickie, the two stars of the series.  Last issue was built around short stories that didn't feature these two characters, so it's been a couple of years since we've seen them.  Vickie is in LA working for a TV show where she plays a crimefighter, and without her, Frances is more disappointed with her job and life than ever before.

Pretty much the entire issue is centred on France's daily grind, working as a law clerk for a powerful (and eccentric) figure at a big corporate law firm.  There is constant office intrigue as people jockey for position and quickly turn on one another.  Rumours of big changes sweep through the office, and Frances's boss offers her a large promotion and position of responsibility, but she's not sure if this is the life that she wants.

Rilly's got a very strong sense of these characters, and it seems like he just allows them to take over the storytelling as needed.  There is little in the way of plotting here, yet I found myself immediately drawn back into the story.  Frances is not someone who finds happiness easily, and Rilly does a terrific job of making that clear here.  Her friendship with Vickie, who is her opposite in so many ways, is what makes this book work.

It was great to revisit these characters, and to see how Rilly has grown as a cartoonist and writer.  I hope we don't have to wait too long for a new issue to come out.

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