Review by Jack Kibble-White
Blankets is a big book. Written, drawn and lettered by Craig Thompson, it’s a singular vision, recounting the author’s journey into adulthood, via a first love affair and a corresponding falling out of love with Christianity. It’s very consistently and artfully drawn, with Thompson fusing scratchy hatching (which really works well when depicting nature), with a loose, fluid foreground style. It makes for an attractive looking piece of work.
The book touches upon a number of cornerstones of autobiographical comic books, including bullying, sibling warfare, public embarrassment and masturbation – and herein lies Blankets’ main problem. Although Thompson clearly has a deep understanding of the medium within which he is working, he fails to transcend his influences.
It probably doesn’t help that most writers of autobiographical comics are sensitive dreamers that occupied the position of outsider at school- Thompson can certainly join that queue. His viewpoint struggles to bring anything fresh to the form, with even his segues into flights of fancy smacking of an over-familiarity for anyone who has read Chester Brown, Seth, Joe Matt, Adrian Tomine, or even Ed Brubaker in his pre-superhero comic days.
As he transitions from wide-eyed skinny boy, to older floppy-haired, still wide-eyed teenager the route Thompson’s comic book alter ego winds along is a path well-travelled. The juxtapositions of documentary and lyrical passages fail to surprise and the story’s downbeat, yet transcendent and contemplative ending is an emotional concoction made from all too familiar ingredients.
It’s not that Blankets is an awful book, it’s pleasantly languid and pastoral. If you like autobiographical comics then it will take you along that particular narrative sweep in expert style and, just shy of 600 pages, will sustain you for a while. Just don’t come looking for something new, Blankets is a comfort blanket.