Cartoonist: Rebecca Reynolds
WHAT IS IT?
VALERIE is a paranormal slice-of-life that dwells in the awkward expanse between childhood and adulthood that leans more toward Casper and Field of Dreams than Sixth Sense and Poltergeist.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Gab, who recently dropped out of photography school, and her pals are killing time. With nothing better to do, they decide to break into the "Murder Mall," an abandoned mall that was the site of a murder, and poke around.
Gab grabs her camera, and she, Casper, and Feebs bike to the mall, which has electricity for some reason. The cavernous space inside evidences years of disuse and is nothing if not eerie and unsettling.
The trio make their way to the infamous "murder bathroom," but electricity cuts out, freaking them out and sending Casper and Feebs fleeing for the exit. Gab sticks around and chats with Valerie, the eponymous ghost haunting the place.
Reynolds's coloring stands out. The comic is front-loaded with moonlight blues and purples that shift to warmer, livelier colors as Valerie's companionship helps Gab shed her loneliness.
The characters are drawn in a fluid, bendy style, giving them a unique look that also creates the impression of people in motion who lack rigid definition.
The sound effect lettering, primarily done in a thin, white, hand-drawn font, pops against the colorful backgrounds without being ostentatious and is often embedded in the images seamlessly, as if they belong there as much as a shadow or any other line.
Reynolds creates an atmosphere of wide-open loneliness and languor that absorbs the reader and communicates a lot about Gab — her desire for more, for meaningful connections, for purpose — and her pals without having to say anything.
You can find an accompanying playlist created by Reynolds for this comic here. Full of melancholy electronic tracks, it conveys the spirit of the story without feeling contrived or extraneous.
Valerie is awesome. Initially outlined in fluorescent pink and, ironically, presented in a more solid, substantial form, she feels at once friendly and of another plane. I also love that her outfit looks like something from the Golden Girls wardrobe.
The paneling and lettering isn't flashy, and the whole comic is highly legible. At one point, this pattern is broken to great effect when a character is freaking out.
Palette shifts effectively mark Valerie as non-human and are used to denote flashbacks.
It's appropriate for all ages. However, the content is going to appeal more to Millennials.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
If anything is holding this story back, it's that the relationship between Gab and Valerie isn't as profound as the characters act like it is. They exchange stories, spend some time together, and bond in a sort of mentor-mentee way, but it ultimately feels like it just isn't that meaningful.
Gab has an interesting background, and the tension between what she thinks she wants and what she thinks she has is salient. Unfortunately, she shows a lot of character but is a little underdeveloped. To be sure, this is a short comic, and it's not like we can expect epic character development.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
VALERIE renders the humdrum boredom of youth in beautiful color, but it doesn't stop there. It takes Gab — and, by extension, the reader — from the too-known to the unknown, discovering companionship and the freedom to live for oneself as oneself along the way.
If the page shown here piques your interest, this quick, pretty read (~60 pages) is well worth your time. It can be read here, with each section accompanied by a song hand-chosen by Reynolds, or you can read it here.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
By Night by John Allison and Christine Larsen
Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn, Claire Roe, and Miquel Muerto
If you like the art:
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang
Blackbird by Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel
Jonesy by Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Rebecca Reynolds — Cartoonist
Outlander: Reynolds works as an illustrator across the pond in Dublin, Ireland.
Reynolds ran a successful Kickstarter to print VALERIE, which appears to be her first comic.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Rebecca Reynolds’s characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Rebecca Reynolds’s or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED