Elsie Har­ris Pic­turePalace

Comic Heroes - - Comics We Rate -

Writer: Jessica Martin

Artist: Jessica Martin

Pub­lisher: Miwk

For­mat: Graphic novel

The 1930s are of­ten thought of as the golden age of Hol­ly­wood. Squeezed be­tween two World Wars, they feel now like a brief, glam­orous respite from the defin­ing hor­rors of the 20th cen­tury, which is one of the things that make this orig­i­nal graphic novel, writ­ten and drawn by Jessica Martin, so ap­peal­ing – and oc­ca­sion­ally melan­choly. It’s not a se­quel, but very much in a sim­i­lar vein to her well-re­ceived short work from last year, It Girl.

The hero of the book’s ti­tle is Elsie, a young girl from a poor back­ground, who is be­sot­ted with Hol­ly­wood. She wants to be­come an ac­tress (the pro­fes­sion that Martin her­self is best known for), but ends up as a star be­hind the scenes in­stead (no spoil­ers here, she’s well on her way be­fore the book’s half­way mark). Im­mensely gifted, she finds ful­fil­ment – but also her fair share of frus­tra­tions and dis­ap­point­ments from an in­dus­try that largely treats her with scep­ti­cism.

It’s an un­con­ven­tional premise for an un­con­ven­tional book, but one that’s im­mensely charm­ing and re­fresh­ingly op­ti­mistic, even though it’s clear from the off where the story is go­ing. Elsie is al­ways sym­pa­thetic and like­able, and Martin has a knack of find­ing the hu­man­ity in even the more an­tag­o­nis­tic char­ac­ters.

But our fore­knowl­edge of re­al­world events also hangs over the book. We all know that there’s a ter­ri­ble dark­ness on the hori­zon for some of these char­ac­ters, which lends the story weight.

Martin’s art style is loose and fluid through­out, the mono­chrome the ideal match for the pe­riod and style. The shad­ing, how­ever, is not al­ways quite up to snuff. For the most part it’s fine, but ev­ery now and again a page will come along that looks a lit­tle scrappy and un­fin­ished be­cause of it.

Still, that’s a small crit­i­cism. We want comics that are bold and dif­fer­ent. Elsie Har­ris Pic­ture

Palace is all of those things and more. A poignant and charm­ing book. Will Salmon

1930s Hol­ly­wood is al­ways ap­peal­ing...

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