Comics Panel, The A.V. Club | Noel Murray & Oliver Sava | February 26, 2013
The A.V. Club’s Comics Panel on Susceptible: “Astonishing”
Compared to other comics memoirists, Geneviève Castrée hasn’t led the most dramatic life. Judging by her book Susceptible (D&Q)—reportedly a mostly autobiographical account of her youth, from birth to age 18, condensed into 80 pages—Castrée had a stressful but not too unusual childhood, raised in Québec by her permissive-but-fretful divorcée mother and the mother’s pissy live-in boyfriend. Castrée’s surrogate in Susceptible—a smart, rebellious young artist named Goglu—gets into comics and punk rock. She takes drugs and fools around with boys. And periodically, she travels across Canada to British Columbia to spend time with her English-speaking hippie father, who allows her even more slack. The heroine’s home life isn’t ideal, but neither is it all that uncommon in the age of the dysfunctional family.
But there’s that old saying, that it’s not what a story’s about, but how it’s about it. From its opening images of Goglu becoming inextricably tangled in a plant’s roots, Susceptible is locked into its main idea: how personal failings get passed down through generations. And Castrée considers this idea not in a self-pitying, “Woe is me” way, but in a more objective, “Here’s what I remember and here’s what I think it means” way. Susceptible divides Goglu’s life into a series of intense anecdotes, some filling only a page, but each as vivid as if Castrée had drawn them immediately after they happened. She doesn’t strike a reflective tone here; instead she recalls her fights with her mom and her adventures with her juvenile-delinquent friends in more of a present tense, lending them more immediacy. Castrée makes her larger points in her art, drawing Goglu as a small figure either dwarfed by blankness or drawn into her mother’s life of drinking, carousing, and making excuses. This book is about an artist trying to understand where she came from, and it’s at times astonishing in both its compactness and clarity…
- Noel Murray