By the good folks over at the Inkwell Bookstore.
To me, Fun Home’s sole shortcoming was it’s almost complete lack of comics magic. There are so many storytelling devices unique to comics, it seemed a waste of the artform for Bechdel to stick to a basic picture-describes-words/words-describe-picture template. You can open up to any page in Fun Home and see what I mean. In its 240 pages, I can count only a handful of instances where the illustrations actually add anything to the narration (or visa-versa). While Bechdel’s words do an amazing job of expressing her emotions and experiences, I can’t help but feel that Fun Home would’ve been just as effective as a 50 page prose story. Contrasting this, Likewise could’ve only been a comic book.
I had the opposite problem with Bottomless Belly Button. Shaw clearly has a mastery of/fascination with the many possibilities of a comics page. Open up BBB to almost any page and you’re sure to be wowed by his technical trickery. But the story itself? Pretty predictable. Part of it, I think, is the fact that Shaw was attempting to tell a highly emotional story while having never experienced any of those emotions himself. That’s not to say that a writer needs to have lived everything they write about, but if you’re making up a story from scratch, you’d better have one helluva an empathetic imagination. Shaw, at least in BBB, does not. The tale he tells contains zero surprise details or up-til-then unidentified emotional nuances. It’s almost as though he was attempting to re-tell a divorce-themed family drama he’d seen on TV or heard from a friend of a friend. It never feels authentic. Likewise, on the other hand, is so much weirder, so much messier, so much more full of insightful observation and — I don’t know — realness?