Review by Frank Plowright
We learn early in this second autobiographical package from Pascal Girard that he’s split up with his long term girlfriend, which is no great surprise given the events of Reunion. In that he laid out in excruciating detail how he psyched himself for meeting the girl he’d always fancied in high school at a reunion, notwithstanding that he was living with a kind and understanding girlfriend at the time. Has he learned anything?
Not really. It’s hoped Girard exaggerates himself for comic purposes, as while this isn’t car crash autobiography in the Joe Matt fashion, neither does he present an appealing self-portrait. He comes across as somewhat creepy as far as women are concerned, and needy in almost every aspect of his life. In Petty Thief he sees a woman steal a book from a bookshop, contrarily pleased that she’s stolen one of his graphic novels. Several days of following and ‘chance’ encounters lead to a date, from which a form of relationship evolves.
Where Girard takes his story from there is both clever and completely nuts if genuinely the case, and it fosters the form of awkward tension generated by a fear of discovery. There’s also some classic farce and the recurring presence of a giant papier-maché head, truly a stroke of genius on the part of his former girlfriend to ensure he feels perpetually guilty.
For all that, Girard as he presents himself is fundamentally an unlikeable idiot. At every opportunity he makes the wrong decision when told not to do something, leading to almost inevitable consequences, and these are massively wrong decisions, against professional advice in some cases. He may be exaggerating his faults for comedic purposes, but it’s difficult to maintain sympathy for someone who’s constantly the author of their own downfall. The saving grace of Petty Theft, therefore, is the wonderfully light and expressive cartooning. Girard captures a mood or a moment or a personality wonderfully, but might benefit from stretching away from a strict six panels per page format.
Charming in places, sordid in others, you have to feel some sympathy for Girard for the story to work, and that’s very difficult.