Every secondary school student in Britain knows the pain of work experience. It’s the time when your school boots you out into the ‘real world’ to learn ‘real world skills’, as a way of not having to put up with a particular class for two weeks. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself sat staring at the walls of a local hospital for hours on end while the nurses try to find something to do with you. But, if you’re like most other students, you’ll wind up stuck in a shop for two weeks, being given the ghost of responsibility by serving customers, handling cash, and when you make your eventual return to school, you’ll be made to write reams about it for no particular reason. Yay.
However, Rachael Smith’s brilliant comic, I Am Fire, deals with work experience in a hilarious and charming way. Jenny, an obnoxious, loud schoolgirl is stuck doing her work experience in a haberdashery shop in her local shopping centre. Jenny, unsurprisingly, isn’t a big fan of it, declaring it to be “pom-poms and shit” and takes it upon herself to generally make a mess of things. Things soon get interesting for Jenny, her best friend Tess and the owner of the shop Joan when the RAF (not the Royal Air Force, but rather the Remember About Fire safety group) arrive at the shopping centre to make a presentation about fire safety, bringing pyromaniac work experience student Chris along. Things soon heat up as what starts out as a standard fire drill becomes deadly as an actual fire breaks out, placing Joan in danger. Jenny has a “mingin’ moment of clarity” and plucking up courage, sets out to get help, but finds herself literally picked up and taken through the flames by Chris. Jenny manages to get help, and begins a budding romance with Chris, who returns to a Young Offender’s Institute.
I Am Fire is Rachael Smith’s second full length comic, following on from the success of The Way We Write, which was released to critical acclaim, and follows from her autobio comic, which she updates on her blog.
I Am Fire is a great, quirky story which has oodles of re-read value. Each time you read it, it’s impossible not to smile and laugh, be it at Jenny hilarious descriptions of the shop’s customers or at Chris’ firey exploits. Smith’s writing style is hugely funny and hugely enjoyable. The story flows greatly, and utilises effective pacing, which helps pull the story along. Furthermore, the character perspective switches keep the story interesting, and you soon grow to love the characters and their individual quirks. Smith has a gift of storytelling that makes any and all of her work sparkle, in a way that is hard to imitate. As for Smith’s art, it’s downright adorable, and all of her characters look great with their own, unique look. The bright, primary colours that Smith uses throughout the comic look great, and really bring I Am Fire to life.
I Am Fire is a wonderful little comic that I would happily recommend to anyone looking for cute, realistic comics from the indie world. It delivers laughs aplenty, all done in Rachael Smith’s cute, unique way.
I Am Fire can be preordered from Rachael’s Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/FlimsyKitten
and you can find more information about Rachael’s other comics on her blog: http://rachaelsmithillustration.blogspot.co.uk/
You can also find her on Twitter: @Rachael_