In Search of Shirley Volume 1

Writer / Artist
In Search of Shirley Volume 1
In Search of Shirley graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: NBM - 1-56163-066-7
  • English language release date: 1988
  • Format: 1991
  • UPC: 9781561630660
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Drama, European

You can seemingly have it all in life, yet be consistently unsettled by the undercurrent of a yearning for something different. Such a person is Arthur Druey, the third generation of that name. He has a friendly, loving and attractive wife, and the family heritage, Colorado’s renowned Druey Marshmallow Company, and yet he’s not a happy man. When the opportunity arises to take a trip to Northern Italy in the company of his best buddy Ian, Arthur figures he’ll go a stage further and invite a visitor from his ancestral homeland in Switzerland. Shirley now lives there.

Swiss creator Cosey (Bernard Cosendai) builds a serene and composed picture of discontent. It’s not quite a mid-life crisis, but Arthur needs an escape, to view his dissatisfaction from a distance, and the buddy road-trip is the opportunity. He’s not quite a passive man, but secure in what he has, Arthur’s content to go with the flow. If the car crashes, so be it. Unable to make a family get together because he’s taken the canoe a little too far down the river, never mind. His is a ruminative existence with plenty of time to ponder the past.

Ian’s different. He’s a perpetual life and soul, and if fate has determined his living is earned as a vetinary dentist, it’s not a career that defines what he what is. Both of them are very keen to meet Shirley again, Arthur recalling glimpses of her showering through a keyhole, and teenage fumblings in the back of a car. Both of them have a very big surprise coming.

This contemplative meander around past and present is finely observed. Arthur and Ian are comprehensively conveyed as best buddies, and their company is enjoyable, while Cosey’s plot segues together beautifully, setting up volume two very nicely indeed, despite one element that doesn’t ring true. A Cambodian orphan Keo is also involved, and while it’s understandable that either author or translator doesn’t want to bother with patronising fractured English, she’s characterised as incredibly self-aware and with a psychological insight and accompanying vocabulary well beyond her years. This is only in the closing pages, so barely impacts on what’s otherwise a very well considered journey.

Cosey’s art is the equal of his script. He’s able to indulge with pastoral landscapes, decorative rural Italian towns and other locations best concealed. The illustration is never flashy, always serving the story, and despite Arthur’s reflective mood there are probably more smiling people to be found within these pages than in most graphic novels. This is all within compact and effective linework that reveals its secrets on close inspection.

Sadly now long out of print, it really does beg a new edition combining both volumes.