Storm At Sea

blankets_07.jpgCraig Thompson's Blankets is almost frustratingly good, a sharp, brutal, heartbreaking story about growing and falling in love and learning your place in a world whose joys and cruelties you are only beginning to understand. Over the course of 600 black and white pages, Thompson lays himself completely bare, working through an autobiography that touches on everything from sexual abuse, fundamentalist dogma, and the kind of heartache borne of the obsessive love practiced by broken youth. One of the many glories of the book is the way Thompson masterfully mixes art and dialogue to maximize emotional impact and achieve something that would not be possible in either a filmed or pictureless medium. The words skate across the page, blasting in jagged edges when the boy Craig is admonished by his father, or curling through snowflakes and archangels when the teenage Craig begins to fall in desperate love for the very first time. Thompson's graphic novel is just that: A prime example of what the medium can be, and the way it can lay you low. The author shuttles back and forth between childhood and adolescence but traces a narrative that spends most of its time in high school, when Craig comes to grips with the extreme Christianity in which he was raised and realizes that the world is a more complicated place than Sunday school would have him believe. Thompson's exploration of this theme is never cliche or trite or easy, and the details of his struggle to unite his faith and humanity are honest and sad and sweet and full of the kinds of revelations perhaps only those who grew up that way will understand. The book isn't cruel toward the misguided people whose zealotry perverted the gospel; if anything, it's a yearning look at what it means to really believe. Thompson's story is a beautiful, intelligent, and engaging one about what it means to fall in love and get a little older and discover that, scars aside, you'll come out the other side. It's shattering, uplifting, and unforgettable.