“Yeah,You’re Lying Or Deluded Or Whatever The Hell, But You Did Not Buy Our Competitor’s Sour Milk Here!”
by Joe Ollmann
128 pages, duotone, tp,
review by BK Munn
Practicing helps, as the Red Queen told Alice, “sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” But somethings even practicing can’t make it perfect: believing the impossible is tough, even if your personal happiness and the happiness of the person you love depends on it. Joe Ollmann’s follow-up to the excellent Mid-Life is a wonderfully sad and funny graphic novel about the slow-motion collapse of a cozily domestic love-affair after the short sharp shock of a major dose of unreality. The tag-line of Science Fiction is “What would you do if someone you trusted asked you to believe what you thought was impossible?” and this is indeed the almost unbelievable premise that plunges the likeable-but-resolutely-boring high school science teacher Mark and cynical-but-vulnerable grocery store cashier Sue down the rabbit hole of sci-fi when Mark suddenly discovers a repressed memory of being abducted by a UFO as a young man.
Ollmann does a good job of setting up a feeling of impending doom, establishing the basic relationships and conflicts of a small group of core characters, leaning on his transcendent cartooning skills to create empathy for these haggard, mildly depressed working class drones, so when the plot of the book starts cooking, we are really gripped by their situation and rooting for them to work something out. But (spoiler alert?) avoiding disaster is not necessarily what Ollmann the storyteller is interested in exploring here. Rather, he takes us on an investigation into the mysteries of the human heart and the limits of intimacy and communication. Some of my favourite moments of this book are the slow burns, shared jokes, tiny gestures, and half-sentences that make up much Mark and Sue’s daily conversation, rendering them totally believable as long-time intimates. So that when that sense of doom we pick up on in the opening pages starts bearing down on these characters we have come to care for like a late night freight train, with Mark and Sue the stalled Chevy pick-up sitting across the tracks, we can’t look away and have to keep reading to see how things unfold. Science Fiction takes a crazy premise and against all odds constructs a human document out of the wine-fueled love, dirty dishes, and Friday night video rentals of real life.