We left a note in the car, in a place where you’ll look

Posted: February 25, 2010 by bryanhood in VAULT -- archives
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Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Those who know me best know that I love teen melodramas. Whether it be Skins, Degrassi, or the first season and a half of Gossip Girl, if it’s got teens, hi-jinx, and the drama is ratcheted up to 11, I’m happy. Even when it comes to comics, my favorites have been heavy on teen characters, I mean that’s the only reason anyone could call Generation X, with the rather large exception of Love and Rockets, their favorite comic series of all time. Anyway, to get to my point, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s Skim, is a comic about teenagers being teenagers, and guess what? I love it. La-la-love it.

Skim focuses on Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a.k.a. Skim, a kinda chubby, kinda weird, kinda wants to be oh-so-deep girl as she deals with being an outsider at an all girls prep school in early ’90s Canada. There’s nothing about the Tamakis (they’re cousins, in case you were wondering) book that is particularly new, but the skill at which the two bring the work to life is astonishing.

Mariko’s writing is subtle, things happen in natural, totally non hackneyed ways. Her characters are self absorbed, as we all were in our teens, but it’s not because they’re numb to the world around them, but because it’s hard to look past yourself sometimes. Her writing just gets it.

As good as Mariko’s writing is, Jillian’s art is equally up to task. I’ve described comic art as whispy before, but I can’t think of an instance where that is more true that here. The figures have a softness and lightness that allows them to float around the page. It’s really quite astounding. Oh! And the grey tones! I’ve never seen the effect utilized so effectively.

It’s a testament to both Tamikos that as outstanding as the writing and art are, one doesn’t manage to outshine the other in Skim. Instead they work together in complete unity, creating a graphic novel that, despite being a team effort, feels the work of one.

So yeah, Skim is great. Real great. It reminds me a significantly better version of Craig Thompson’s Blankets, which everyone loved, except me. Skim captures that feel of disenfranchisement that everyone but the most sucky of teenagers have at some point. That’s a tough task, but even tougher is that Skim also manages to remember, that as hard as adolescence can be, most of us will get through it. It’s a realistic portrayal of being a teenager, and as someone who immerses himself in this kind of stuff, that’s hard to find.

~Bryan Hood

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