Rachael Smith, epic comics writer and artist is going up and up in the comics world. As well her awesomely funny Ask Flimsy strip on Tumblr, Smith infrequently updates her autobio comic One Good Thing, she wrote and successfully funded a kickstarter for her project I Am Fire last year AND does art for David Lloyd’s comic imprint Aces Weekly. Smith’s cutesy illustrations with blocky, vivid colours are instantly recognisable, as is her quirky use of dialogue and storytelling. Her newest book, House Party, is all of these things and more. As well as featuring the silly humour that she is well known for, Smith tackles a variety of bigger topics and themes, resulting in a particularly poignant book.
Siobhan, Michelle and Neil are post-graduates from university, and are dealing with the *shudder* real world. Wannabe writer Michelle has dumbed down and gone into marketing; quirky, blue-haired Siobhan works in a coffee shop dealing with businessbro douchebags; and Neil helps out local band Helveticas by being their runner/whipping boy. After one night too many of staying in and watching reruns of Come Dine With Me and looking through old pictures on Facebook, the three have an epiphany. One last night, to remind them that they’re cool again. One last, big blow-out. So, after many hours planning, Neil plans the most epic party, including holier-than-thou rockers Helveticas. The three rock up to their gig, and after lasting through their set, Siobhan, Michelle and Neil announce their party. Once everyone turns up back at Siobhan, Michelle and Neil’s place, things take a turn for the worse, and the three realise that being cool is really not what it’s cracked up to be…
Written and illustrated by the hilarious and inimitable Rachael Smith, House Party is an excellent, well-rounded story with a fantastic use of thematic devices. Topped off with Smith’s adorable art style, House Party is one to watch out for.
I’m just about to start my third year at university, so Smith’s House Party cuts close- closer than I’d like to admit. But, because it’s so focussed on one specific age group, at one specific time, it captures the mentality and mind-set of people that age, and the worry that things aren’t as good as they used to be. In House Party, Smith captures an all-too-familiar ennui with twenty somethings, framed within her amusing narrative and cracking dialogue. She combines humour, a naturalistic setting and an emotional story in an excellent way, never dwelling too much in one area, she gives all characters a chance to shine in their own way. Smith’s writing skills have excelled with each new piece she’s written, and while I’ve been privileged enough to read most of her other work, House Party has stayed with me, leaving an emotional resonance. The storytelling itself is superb, with a bittersweet but expertly crafted ending which leaves you feeling hugely satisfied. It doesn’t feel overly long, and it doesn’t feel overly short; it’s the perfect debut graphic novel offering. House Party is part Scott Pilgrim vs The World, part autobio comic, and captures the very best from both of these areas. Plus, any comic that starts “For Mum (soz about the swearing)” in the opening pages says all that needs to be said about Smith’s writing.
Smith’s unmistakable art works great in this piece, and she showcases her superb skills at drawing people and their facial expressions. Sure, her art style is a little juvenile at times, but y’know what? I don’t care. I think it looks amazing. The amount of detail that she puts into each panel is incredible, be it bottles of nail polish and a nail file on a window sill, or the amusing parody Caffé Zero, Smith’s artwork captures living in a university city (those people handing leaflets out drive me crazy sometimes) perfectly, along with the inherent loneliness that comes with it. Smith is adventurous with her colour scheme in House Party, which captures the frenetic energy of the book excellently. As for the party itself… Well. I’ve been at some pretty crazy house parties in my time, and her depiction of one is absolutely spot on! The madness, the crazy couples, bathroom queues… Smith captures all of it with her dry wit and ever watchful eye. House Party also comes with an artist’s gallery and concept sketches tucked away at the back of the book, and they’re a real treat! Featuring artwork from Emi Lenox, Adam Cadwell, Paul Shinn and more, the super-cool art gallery wraps this awesome book up.