Review: Pope Hats #4 by Ethan Rilly

Ethan Rilly’s latest issue of Pope Hats is my first interaction
with the long-running series, and it seems to be a good jumping in point –
instead of continuing the narrative from the first three issues of Pope Hats,
Rilly fills the fourth with a series of short stories in 32 pages of full
color, oversized print. AdHouse has done a lovely job with the printing; Pope
Hats #4
has a very nice cover stock and paper quality that makes it a joy
to hold in your hands. Pope Hats #4 is Ignatz nominated this year for
Outstanding Anthology, and it’s easy enough to see why. Previous issues
featuring Rilly’s long running story have been nominated for Ignatz and Doug
Wright Awards. In this issue, Rilly has put together a remarkable collection of
short stories.

A throughput on this collection is Rilly’s theme of personal
responsibility and control; Rilly seems interested in the intersection between what
his characters are truly responsible for, and what they feel they are
responsible for. In the longest piece, “The Nest,” a retiree father and mother
must take care of their college-aged daughter who returns home from college,
apparently suffering from schizophrenia. In another, “Stained Glass,” an artist
decides the work he has done on a commissioned stained glass piece for a church
isn’t satisfactory, and that he is responsible for making things right, no
matter what the cost is.

Wrapped up in his characters’ personal control is the ways in which
they try to defend themselves from the outside world. Rilly’s characters are
beset on every angle, and build emotional walls, take drugs, write songs, and
paint garage doors to escape the crises of their lives. They destroy themselves
in order to salvage their self-worth. And importantly, sometimes these defense
mechanisms don’t work; things get worse, and don’t get better.

Many of Rilly’s characters feel worn down and faded, and his color
choices reflect that; light yellows and peaches take the place of deeper hues
in much of the book. In typical slice of life fashion, most of the drama of Pope
Hats #4
comes from quiet moments, and in that regard, the collection as a
whole can feel understated. Rilly is more interested in the subtle interactions
between characters than fiery revelations.  But the subtleness of the collection is its
strength. Pope Hats #4 is a collection worth your attention.  Recommended.

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Ethan Rilly is a cartoonist and illustrator from Toronto Canada. Find more of his work at his website.

AdHouse Books adhousebooks is a publisher of comics based in Virginia. Check out their upcoming releases and new comics at their website.

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