Review: Ley Lines #3 – Thank God I Am In Love by Cathy G. Johnson

Earlier this week, I published an interview with Kevin Czap and L. Nichols, the publishers of the Ley Lines series. Thank God, I Am In Love by Cathy G. Johnson is the third issue of the quarterly publication, which engages with the art of Vincent van Gogh. Thank God, I Am In Love is 24 pages of tan and white comics with a blue and white cover.

I’ve reviewed many of Johnson’s recent comics, and one of the important throughputs of these comics is a poetic or lyrical style. In Thank God, I Am In Love, Johnson brightens and focuses that tendency; the comic flows with a poetic pacing and a utility of language interspersed with quotes from Van Gogh. Underneath, Johnson’s pages are paintings and pencils that emphasize the brushwork and the texture of Van Gogh’s paintings, if not the actual paintings themselves. The single tone of the page emphasizes texture instead of color, and allows Johnson’s text to shine through.

Importantly, the comic also seems to focus on Johnson’s body dysphoria – “I don’t relate to the body I’m in. It is strange and unearthly. It is not my own.” The focus is emphasized by the lack of human bodies within the comic. There’s a juxtaposition here between Johnson’s dysphoria and the explicit utilization of sensation-related descriptors – “The colors undulating in a shadow, like fingers skirting across my back,” and “Love like an ice cube down the back of your shirt.” These phrases heighten the sense of conflict throught the work.

Johnson also explicitly discusses love, and being in love with someone, a second juxtaposition against the internal conflict Johnson evokes. Love doesn’t heal the pain; it exists alongside and through it. It is “love like waves, love like shivers” – evoking the physicality of the presence of a lover and the thought of them, emotion and counter emotion. The preciousness of love, the rarity of it, all of these are implied in Johnson’s text.

Thank God, I Am In Love is an intensely personal comic. Art as the window to the soul, to coopt an old saying. Stunning in depth, and representative of the Ley Lines series as a whole. Recommended.

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Cathy G. Johnson is a cartoonist, illustrator, and educator. First Second recently announced acquisition of NO DOGS ALLOWED, a middle-grade comic from Johnson, colored by Kevin Czap. The book will be published in 2017.

Ley Lines is a quarterly comics publication that examines the intersection between comics and other culture. You can see my interview with Kevin Czap and L. Nichols from earlier this week here about the project, and subscribe to the series it at the Ley Lines storenvy.

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