Like her 2010 Flesh and Bone, Julia Gfrörer’s latest comic features two passionate young lovers, some supernatural circumstances and a strange sex scene. While the previous book was set in an undetermined past and mixed the lore of witchcraft with a Gothic melodrama, her new Too Dark To See has a modern milieu. That makes the setting more immediate, and the supernatural aspects a bit scarier.
The young couple is Lauren and Jamie, and we’re first introduced to them naked on their shared mattress on the floor of their apartment, in apparent post-coital bliss, the former telling the latter that “No one has ever loved anyone more than I love you.” As they sleep, a piece of shadow in the corner of their bedroom peels itself off the wall, takes the vague shape of a woman, and crawls into their bed, seducing Jamie.
The romantic sentiment Lauren expresses is soon undercut by scenes and dialogue suggesting problems in their relationship, ranging from minor annoyances (You never do the dishes, you always interrupt me) to more serious concerns (Are you cheating on me?), and essentially revealing a real world relationship fraught with real world pleasures and problems. That, or are the shadows that have their way with the lovers somehow impact their happiness, and is it just those two, or everyone?
Questions are raised, answers are to be provided by the reader.
Gfrörer’s artwork is a rare pleasure. Her round-cornered, ever-so-slightly wobbly panels repeat with a mechanical, filmic progression—despite varying in size and layout—and are full of white, white space. She has an extremely thin, delicate line, which probably artificially inflates the amount of white space that’s there, but her artwork is anything but minimalist or abstract. The figures are highly detailed, never more so then we see close-ups of their hands at work on extremely detailed objects, like Lauren before an espresso machine at work, or making a sandwich from lovingly cross-hatched strawberry jam.
The open space, filled in by the white of the paper the art’s drawn, sharply contrasts with the few scenes set outside of the couple’s apartment, which are darker and have more details, and the visits from the shadows, which are dark, slightly furious looking patches of less-precise lines, suggesting a sort of controlled scribble. They are also somewhat see-through, so they were apparently drawn with something other than the lines of the rest of the book.
The beautiful aesthetic of the art is mirrored in the production; this is a mini-comic Gfrörer made and is selling through Etsy, and looks and feels homemade, bound with string. In both the criteria of a comic as comic and a comic as object, it’s a beautiful thing.
If you’re interested in securing a copy, here’s Gfrörer Etsy listing for the book, and here’s her website.