Writer/Artist: Rachael Smith
Fresh from a barnstorming Kickstarter campaign, Wired Up Wrong is the latest offering from the British Comic Award-nominated Rachael Smith. Taking the form of a series of autobiographical comic strips, this collection sees Smith opening up about her struggles with depression and anxiety, maintaining a disarming sense of humour throughout as she provides an insightful and relatable look at the kind of problems a lot of us are likely to have experienced at some point in our lives.
Smith balances the humour and seriousness perfectly here, providing a worthwhile message while still keeping the chuckles coming throughout. Her boyfriend Adam and cat Rufus both play significant roles, but their involvement is overshadowed somewhat by the inclusion of a black dog called Barky who follows Rachel around, changing his appearance to provide a visual representation of her mental state.
The random assortment of strips are punctuated by several recurring themes, including “The Wheel of Feels”, a physical manifestation of the way Smith sees her brain working – two little men living in her head, spinning a gameshow-esque wheel every time something happens in her life to determine how she reacts – as well as a series of one-page illustrations showing just how hard it can be sometimes for her to even get out of bed.
As with the majority of her previous work, Smith’s humble charm and good-natured humour is present throughout the course of this book, giving everything a soft, accessible edge. There is however one particular strip that proves to be the exception to this rule, where Rachel recalls a particularly traumatic moment in her young life, but in a smart move these pages are actually colour-coded to allow the reader to simply skip past the section and avoid triggering any unpleasant memories of their own.
Visually, while she may take some modest jibes at her own artistic abilities throughout the course of the collection, Smith’s illustrations are actually perfectly suited to this style of the book. Packed with subtle details and a surprising amount of expression, the colourful characters really help to underscore feelings behind the strips. Plus, as I mentioned above, the constantly-changing ‘Barky’ serves a tremendously effective visual device.
What’s perhaps most impressive about Wired Up Wrong is the fact that there’s pretty much guaranteed to be something here that resonates with everyone who picks it up, regardless of their own situation. If you’re experiencing the same things as Rachel, then there’s a sense of reassurance and a fresh perspective to be had. Likewise if there’s someone in your life that you’re perhaps concerned about, then this book can hopefully help provide a deeper insight into how they’re feeling.
Ultimately then, Wired Up Wrong is, in my mind at least, Smith’s strongest work to date. And whether you see it as a self-help book – albeit one that doesn’t come across as preachy or condescending – or just a collection of charming and thought-provoking comics about anxiety and depression, this collection comes highly, highly recommended.
You can (and should!) grab yourself a copy of the Deluxe Edition of Wired up Wrong – including the option to get a signed and sketched copy – from Rachel’s Etsy Store.