Review by Ian Keogh
Is there a more depressing phrase in the English language attributable to personal relationships than the title? That Mawil (Markus Witzel) used it for his final college project is a statement in itself, and the content is three personally embarrassing recollections of how an a younger, infatuated Mawil failed to cement a relationship.
The strangely posed, flat and out of proportion cover art is an off-putting mistake that doesn’t do justice to the personable and expressive cartooning found inside. A framing sequence has Mawil and three mates laughing over his disastrous love life, almost the only time he departs from a nine panel grid containing a selection of rich characters and nicely conceived viewpoints. The appealing loose nature of the cartooning conceals a cinematic outlook, and an occasional experiment, a page around a picnic rug that needs to be revolved being one. Mawil’s especially good with movement.
Although still only in his early twenties when he completed We Can Still Be Friends, that age was enough distance to prompt the benefit of hindsight, Mawil now knowing exactly what went wrong each time. The lack of romantic courage common to most teenagers who care is nicely presented, from the rapidly offered birthday present for his first love to the desperate drunken lunging at a Spanish student. While he’s ridiculing his younger self it’s sympathetically handled, conveying the disappointment felt with amusing good cheer, and the lack of romance is combined with other activities, the Catholic church socials an unsurprising squirm of suppressed sexuality.
Honestly, get past that ugly cover, take a good look at the sample pages and dip inside. Mawil has gone on to become one of Germany’s most respected comic artists, and the first to work on Lucky Luke, which says everything about his talent.