The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens

The Wrong Place
by Brecht Evens
Drawn & Quarterly, 2010

An exceptional work, arch like a French social comedy and abstract like a party amongst Expressionist paintings once the gallery’s closed. This trio of interlinked short stories focuses on the same set of characters who are in the wrong place: colourless Gary carefully sets up a party, which flops when his popular friend Robbie fails to show. Shy Naomi reinvents herself for the night, and is caught up in Robbie’s whirlwind orbit. Robbie and Gary go out for a wild night together, but Gary fails to rise to the occasion.

Which is more impressive, the artwork or the writing? The artwork is immediately striking, a confection of watercolour panels stripped of unnecessary detail, the characters colour-coded (Gary is grey, Robbie blue and Naomi red) along with their dialogue, which floats unfettered above their heads. Intricate crowd scenes are rendered with a casual effortlessness, and there’s an imaginatively-rendered sex scene where the comfortable blobs of watercolour give way to thin, whippy lines. It makes (the also excellent) Asterios Polyp look positively formal.

The writing (translated from Flemish, thanks to the Flemish Literature Fund) is observant and often cringe-inducing: the banal jokes and small talk at Gary’s party, the bitchy exclusion of Naomi from a sexually-charged conversation about Robbie, and Robbie’s own dialogue and characterisation, apparently sweet and considerate, yet also just a bit manipulative and the undisputed social centre of everyone’s lives. Rightfully nominated for an Eisner. Evens is only 25… the talented bastard!

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