Ready to reflect on your current struggles, life, and possibly cry? Originally titled C’est comme ça que je disparais and released in 2020, This is How I Disappear written and illustrated by Mirion Malle is a frank look at modern millennial survival and may pull you into an existential dread — in a good way.
Translated from French to English by Aleshia Jensen and Bronwyn Haslam, the book follows mid-twenties Clara and her increasing struggle as she deals with maintaining friendships, her less-than-ideal publishing job, and a messy breakup amidst her pervasive depression.
One of Clara’s main conflicts at the beginning of This is How I Disappear is dealing with the emotional remnants of this unpleasant breakup. It appears this is the main reason for her depressive mood, low-functioning actions, and the focus for her poetry. However, it’s later revealed that her actions and emotions revolve around trauma from a sexual assault. It’s an incredible development of the plot that speaks to the complexity of coping and of how struggles don’t always present themselves on the surface.
There’s also a perfect parallel used to reveal both the breakup and the sexual assault to the reader, using Clara’s friend Rose’s aunt’s cabin as a place of disclosure and breakthrough. It’s a parallel that brings the theme of hidden battles full circle and leaves ample room for the reader to contemplate what it means moving forward.
The My Chemical Romance song that Malle pulled the book’s title from (an anguished track letting a departed lover know that the singer is nothing without them) makes the story in This is How I Disappear even more pertinent. It brings in some nice millennial emo nostalgia but also connects to the story’s core theme of feeling utter despair at the hole someone’s actions have left in your life.
This is How I Disappear is in a similar vein to Allie Brosh’s famed webcomic Hyperbole and a Half and its tendency to explore darker emotions with accentuated visuals. Accompanied by a feminist bend similar to the likes of Alison Bechdel’s black-and-white comics, This is How I Disappear is a stand-out addition to the landscape of fictional memoir comics.
A vital component of this uniqueness comes from the choices made with the art. Simple, clean lines cut to the rawness of the story and are accompanied by complicated and comical expressions that use the comic medium how it should be — to employ images to tell a story in a way that only words cannot. This is especially true of how Malle illustrates tears as large, emoji-style drops that in reality would be far too large to ever fall from someone’s eye.
Those not accustomed to black-and-white style art in anthropological-type comics may find the images lacking, but they are far from it. Solid black coloring is used at appropriate times to differentiate Clara from others and to provide general contrast, but there’s not too much of it. It lets the white space breathe and avoids making the whole comic look like black-and-white checkered kitchen tile. Excellent use of splash pages, gutterless and borderless panels, and modern texting vernacular in the lettering show Malle’s strong grasp of the comics medium.
In addition, the way Malle illustrates movement lends itself to the respective emotion, opting for stark, hurried repetition of limbs over simple lines of motion. The attention to body language, like with panels zeroing in on mouths or facial features, and the fidgeting discomfort that comes with confession highlights emotion all on its own. Malle’s style is earnest and evocative, creating an aura of harsh sentience amidst its intentional dearth of warmth.
Every millennial and young person is living some variant of this story, myself included. It is stunning how such a deeply personal and specific story felt like it was recounting my past week. This omnipresence speaks to This is How I Disappear‘s eternal message that everyone has issues they’re dealing with, whether they’re obvious or not.
Which means that you shouldn’t let this story disappear. Art with a striking desolate richness and a universally harrowing narrative, This is How I Disappear is a must-buy for any dealing with the depths of living and continuing to live.
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