Advance Review – It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth OGN (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Artist: Zoe Thorogood
Release Date: 9th November 2022

“I don’t want to kill myself because he left me. I want to kill myself because I understand why he did.”

On sale this November from Image Comics, It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth is an autobiographical graphic novel from Zoe Thorogood, the British cartoonist behind the remarkable The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott. It covers six tumultuous months of Zoe’s life at the end of 2021, and includes flashbacks to some of the key moments from her childhood years.

Searingly honest and profoundly moving in places, the novel utilises a lot of self-referential and fourth wall-breaking devices which help the reader become deeply involved and invested in Zoe and her life over the course of these 180-odd pages. Well, it did for this particular reader, anyway.

There are some fascinating visual flourishes utilised along the way too, such as the menacing physical manifestation of Zoe’s dark, suicidal thoughts and the blank, expressionless mask she wears when being forced to face the outside world. The sequence when she goes on holiday with her parents and visualises them with ‘suspicion bars’ hovering above their heads as she tries to keep how she’s feeling from them is likely to resonate with a great many people and, much like the majority of these moments, never feels contrived or pretentious.

The use of colour throughout is remarkably well executed, with a mostly monochrome present day punctuated by brief flourishes of colour whenever something happens that makes Zoe feel even the slightest bit positive – even if these moments are almost inevitably fleeting. Likewise, the bulk of the flashback sequences are far more colourful, and the symbolism of that vibrancy gradually fading away over the years is difficult to ignore.

At times it almost feels intrusive, such is the level of honesty Thorogood brings to the page here. Pure honesty is often something that makes people feel uncomfortable, and the matter-of-fact delivery about her darker thoughts definitely falls into that category. It’s also genuinely painful to watch Zoe typify herself as selfish or self-absorbed throughout the course of this graphic novel, although there’s definitely something about the phrase “perpetuating our own bullshit while validating our audience’s bullshit” that I get.

Honestly, this is a difficult book to review simply because it’s so personal. Sure, the technical execution is impressive, and the use of different artistic styles and metanarrative devices is certainly engaging, but your individual mileage here will undoubtedly vary based on your own experiences, mindset, and… empathy, I guess? For me, I’m not sure I can remember the last time a graphic novel hit me quite as hard as this one did. Deeply moving at some points, and actually kinda uplifting at others, Zoe takes us on a brief but memorable journey alongside her for six months of her life, giving the reader a firsthand insight into the mind of a troubled but supremely talented creator.

Rating: 5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
Article Archive: Ceej Says
You can follow Ceej on Twitter

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