Happy Birthday, Anyway

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2006
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of Happy Birthday, Anyway Creator(s): Matt Huynh
Publishers: Stikmancomics (Self Published)
From: Australia
Price: $4(AU)

Lucy makes her way through the day, as a narration tells us of her strange dreams. Along the way she attends a lecture for a few minutes before skiving off with a friend for a chat. That evening she meets up with her boyfriend and their relationship comes to head.

This is a book of two halves. In the first Lucy's trip to and from University introduces us to her and her friends, and through these conversations we grasp her state of mind. Young adult angst I hear some of you groan. It isn't quite like that. She's more elusive a character than such a clichéd description; depressed but still full of the freedom that youth allows.

In the second half Lucy and her boyfriend spend some time together. Their interactions are quite awkward, with something not quite right in their relationship and both of them working hard to act like that isn't the case. It's a very sad situation, but so well observed that events draw the reader in without any dramatics.

Matt's inks look to have been done with a brush, which achieves a fluidity in the artwork that I found very appealing. He also makes a lot of use of little distortions in the images, adding odd perspectives and optical effects that add to the dream like, almost nightmarish quality of the events. There's also a strong sense of a hot summer wind swirling through the book. While the fluidity makes for loose artwork, the characters and panels are infused with emotion in a very delicate way insuring the story remains central. Often the misery of such characters can overwhelm a story, but here the reader is left standing and the characters still have a sense of hope.

I felt strangely uplifted by this rather sad story. It speaks of possibilities instead of closure. The characters want more of each other, something new, even though the past has a strong hold. Life isn't easy, and they know it. Telling a thoughtful story about sadness isn't easy either, but Matt shows us that it is more than possible. Just what possibilities lay ahead for his storytelling is a question filled with promise if this comic is any guide.

In a Word: Gifted.

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