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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

First Year Healthy by Michael DeForge is out today!

The latest book from DeForge published by Drawn and Quarterly is out today! First Year Healthy has the cutest salmon pink cover ever, and is the size of a children's book. This time, the colour palette used by DeForge is delicate, even caressing. The colours combined with the textured cover made me want to "cuddle" with the book. It was love at first sight!

But don't let the appearance fool you... DeForge's wintery tale is sordid, and as dark as it can be!




First Year Healthy is the story of a young woman, reintegrating into her village after being released from a mental hospital. A cold winter sets the tone of this Christmas-themed graphic novel.


Watch out! Where one may expect to find a warm and vibrant atmosphere, one rather encounters silence, death and a general numbness of feelings.


DeForge's little pink treasure is also a perfect match to Montreal's weather right now! It's hard to describe how excited I was to read his new book. I adore his work and his previous book Ant Colony was also part of my Top 10 books of 2014.




DeForge’s work is very unique and highly stylized. The first pages of the book are tapestry-like and their depiction of intricate flora are one of many examples. I was charmed by the odd-ball juxtaposition of beige poop, purple leaves, algae and dandelions.


While reading First Year Healthy, one realizes the pink cover isn’t tainted with innocence, but rather evokes flesh and alludes to murder. It also reminds me of a central but speechless character in the story, the Turk’s baby. The child, is always portrayed naked, and seems even more vulnerable, surrounded by snow, ice and craziness. 


DeForge creates weird poetic images by combining mesmerizing visuals with a narrative that is bleak and discomforting.


In First Year Healthy, the main protagonist is romantically involved with a Turk she meet at the fish market. But is there really love?

The couple distracts itself by measuring the speed at which sperm freezes on the snow and has sex between lunch breaks.



The Turk is always referred to by his nationality. By doing so, his girlfriend underlines repeatedly his outsiderness and his fragile social status as an illegal immigrant. Not only do the characters not have names, but the link that ties them to each other appears to be tenuous and devoid of emotions.


The Canadian wintery tale reaches its dramatic apex on Christmas Eve. As the story unfolds, one may be vaguely reminded of the nativity story. However, this time, it is way more creepy. Brrrrr!

DeForge’s book is also reminiscent of some of the visual characteristics of videogame design, especially Mario Bros’ flatness, simple geometry and clean lines. At times, a vertical cross-section shows different stratums and gives a feeling of vertical depth. In fact, DeForge does not only depict the ground but also the layers of worms and dirt that lie beneath.

Bravo!

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