Early Review: The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott
The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott is a coronation for writer/artist Zoe Thorogood as one of the great cartoonists of this decade. The comic chronicles the life of Billie Scott, who has been contracted by an art gallery to make ten paintings for an exhibition. However, an altercation that detaches her retina, throws a spanner in the works, and she learns that she is going to go blind in a couple weeks. This diagnosis acts as a kind of wake-up call as she actually interacts with her flatmates and hits the road to London meeting a dynamic cast of characters along the way while also making wonderful art that truly captures the human condition.
This memorable cast of characters also provides Thorogood with an opportunity to create a kind of art within the art as she draws the sketches of the subjects that lead to Billie’s paintings. This comic shows that she is fascinated by people and their inner workings, and Billie Scott has a sense of hope and wonder despite its protagonist’s loss of sight. Along with Billie, Thorogood populates her comic with a wonderful cast of characters from folk punk artist Rachel (who keeps getting thrown out of bars) and bride-to-be Sara to Falklands war veteran Arthur and mysterious “cool girl” Iris. Billie builds relationships with them that directly influences her art.
To lead off, Billie Scott has the most authentic portrayal of the lonely and isolating nature of the creative act in almost any work of art sans the early lyrics of Morrissey. Zoe Thorogood plays with expectations and opens the comic on a group of flatmates who one might think might be the ensemble cast that surrounds the then-unseen Billie Scott. But, apparently, they’ve never met or spoken to her. Then, cut to utter isolation and the gorgeous dark pinks that Thorogood punctuates the comic with. Throughout the early part of The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott, she portrays her protagonist as being wholly focused on her art at the detriment of having a social life, support system, or proper sleep schedule. Billie unpacks this feeling later on in conversations with folks at the shelter and trash dump that she crashes at in London as she comes to terms with her earlier isolation and the new community that she’s found by the end of the comic.
Zoe Thorogood’s loose line work, Ben Day dots, and varying panel structures keeps Billie Scott fresh and comforting except in its several tense sequences like Billie trying to figure out what to do with herself when she books a train ticket to an unknown destination after learning she will go blind. Billie uses this train trip to try on some new personalities even though she ends up mostly hanging out with Rachel in the end. One of these personalities is hen party confidant as her active listening and keen observations almost call off a wedding while Thorogood captures the zesty energy of a night out with spots of color and swirly lines and layouts. It’s a shot of an adrenaline for the basically housebound Billie and launches her journey to meet and draw people. (And one cute dog.)
The supporting character that gets the most depth is Rachel as Zoe Thorogood digs deep into her family background, her passion for activism, and creates a nice rapport between her and Billie through dialogue and facial expressions. Like all great friendships, there is some tension later on the book, but Thorogood develops it organically and connects it to Billie’s past isolation and extreme introversion. She uses a nine panel grid for many of Billie and Rachel’s every day interactions with Rachel trying to play a gig at a local bar while Billie paints in an alley that gives feeling of comfort and routine that later gets disrupted. Also, Rachel and the aforementioned Arthur are a gateway to the communities of Third Chance (A shelter) and Funland from where Billie meets even more interesting people and finds more subjects for her paintings. It also showcases Zoe Thorogood’s ability to write different character voices.
The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott is a glorious and heart-rending look at creativity and relationships via the care-filled art and poignant writing of Zoe Thorogood. It shows all the bumps and bruises on the way to finding a found family and really captures what it’s like to deal with some life changing shit and come out pretty okay on the other side. I definitely look forward to checking out Thorogood’s future comics after being truly touched by this one.
Story: Zoe Thorogood Art: Zoe Thorogood
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy
Avery Hill provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Pre-Order (8th October (UK) / 14th October (USA)): Amazon