Comic Review: Enter, Holy Pilgrim by Laila Milevski

This week I’m happy to present a series of articles focused on Enter, Holy Pilgrim, by Laila Milevski. Today is the comic review of that book, and later this week we will have two interviews. The first interview is with Laila about Enter, Holy Pilgrim. The second interview is with Kevin Czap and L. Nichols about publishing the Ley Lines series. This series has been two months in the making. I’m happy to finally get it on the site.

You get better at interviewing the more you do it – I would appreciate your feedback on the interviews this week and last. Thanks to Laila, Kevin, and L for agreeing to talk with me.

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Cover of Enter, Holy Pilgrim by Laila Milevski

Enter, Holy Pilgrim is the final issue of the Ley Lines 2016 season, and it stands out from the other books in the series. Its focus on Gothic architecture makes it unlike any of the other comics in the series before it. Most of the Ley Lines books have been about visual artists. We are starting to see some variation in the 2017 season, but Milevski’s comic leads the way. And, importantly, Milevski finds a way to use Gothic architecture to tell a compelling story of loss and spirituality.

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Page of Enter, Holy Pilgrim by Laila Milevski

 

Each of the Ley Lines books is unique, but Enter, Holy Pilgrim is one of the few fully fictional pieces in the series. In Enter, Holy Pilgrim, Milevski sets the stage for a young woman to make a pilgrimage to a far off cathedral. She is indentured and a great illness has killed all of the men in her family. She is searching for guidance, but can’t find the voice of God in her church. Her journey isn’t easy. She has to overcome the travel, and uses sex as a way to convince the lord of the manor’s bursar to spare her family so she can leave. Milevski portrays a systemic violence against women in a deft way. The economic system they are entrenched in lives and moves solely at the whims of men. That the men in her family are all dead puts our unnamed protagonist at great personal risk.

Before the protagonist gets to enter the cathedral, she stays at a local inn or hostel, and discusses her plans with a few locals. They’re not impressed with the massive structure – talking about the business and money of it. They ask her why she’s there. She’s only got a black eye – what does she need healing for? But the main character isn’t looking for physical well being. She doesn’t want to be alone any longer. She is looking for a kind of wholeness that isn’t encompassed by her physical self.

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Two Page Spread from Enter, Holy Pilgrim by Laila Milevski

When she finally enters the cathedral, she is enthralled. She is figuratively lifted off her feet – the voice of God comes through. The use of spirituality in this book is fascinating. Religion is often a topic of scorn in comics. In Enter, Holy Pilgrim, Milevski is using this woman’s religion to channel a very specific spiritual experience. There’s a respect and mindfulness to this work that is unusual. More importantly, the spiritual encounter is a metaphor for the way art is a window to the spiritual. Whether you have this kind of experience in a temple, a concert, or a museum, Enter, Holy Pilgrim accesses human spirituality in a powerful way.

Each of the Ley Lines books is short – a quick 24 pages, and all in a single tone (in the case of Enter, Holy Pilgrim, a risograph burgundy). But within that space Milevski has created an undeniably powerful comic.

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