Reviews: The Suitcase…. just your good, old fashioned farce… but oh so good…
Dan Berry’s first long form graphic novel takes as its start point one unfortunate event, adds twists and turns, clever connections, ridiculous coincidences, and some unfortunate decisions to get to the end. Along the way you get to read a perfect 3-act farce, a comedy of errors in comic book form.
Poor Helen, a saintly neighbour, calm and kind, housesitting for neighbours away on their hols finds poor Cruncher the dog keeled over in the kitchen. He was an old dog, and the owners tell Helen they were partially expecting it. And bless her, the elderly neighbour assures them she’ll handle getting the dog to the vets for the necessary disposal stuff. It’s not the first time she’ll regret being so darned nice.
Only on putting the phone down does Helen realise that, with no car, she’ll have trouble getting Cruncher to the vets on her own.
Neighbour Richard is sod all help; nasty, stressy, ungrateful, all take and no give, not to mention fat, horribly red of face, and while we’re at it, wearing a bloody hideous jumper as well. (Helen of course, wouldn’t say any of that, she’s far too nice and laid back).
So, with no car, no help from boorish Richard, the bus is Helen’s only answer. What possible means of transportation could she use? something portable, easy for her to handle, yet big enough to fit a medium sized dog inside?
Take a moment…
think about the title of the comic…
ah, yes, you’re there.
From here on in there’s thievery, more dead animals, Richard has a major fit, dead bunnies, a Top Gear audition tape that’s as hilarious as it is pathetic, an accident, more twists and turns, everything interconnected, each improbable, ridiculous thing affecting the next ridiculous, improbable thing. Pure, wonderful, brilliantly constructed farce.
Berry’s style is so easy-going, his lines, his expressions, his body-language, all of it combines to form something really easy to read, pure simplicity in the storytelling. You know the old saying about the graceful swan; all beautiful tranquility and consumate ease on the surface, yet beneath it the legs are going crazy to make the graceful stuff happen. That’s Dan Berry’s artwork; the amount of work he needs to put in to make the simplicity and effortless grace of the work happen is something else.
Gorgeous watercolours are all over the book, the very craft of creating the pages reflected in the watermarks on the pages, themselves used to mark out sky and cloud above suburbia. Berry’s lush colours make those surburban trees look like flames bursting through the streets, and the autumnal beauty is all over the book; the warm greys of the sky and tarmaced roads of suburbia contrasted against the fiery leaves. Contrast this against the colder greys and colours of Helen and her neighbour’s kitchen. And against this backdrop of greys, browns, oranges we get the reds… the suitcase, Richard’s car, his shirt, and later on his ridiculous, puffy, face…. colour marking out the moments of high emotion or simply the key events through the book – a simple, much used way of guiding the reader’s eye. Simple yes, but so hard to get right. Again, it’s that swan swimming.
Dan Berry’s The Suitcase is a beautifully constructed comedy, a perfect farce. So simple to read, yet so hard to get right. And Berry’s done it. Perfect.