I have one bookshelf in my house for comics. It’s weird because the width of each of the shelves increases as they go up. So books like Solid State only fit on the bottom shelf, forcing smaller books upward. The top shelf is roughly at my eye level, so books like Dragon Hoops or other brick-like First Second books stare me in the face whenever I go into my bedroom. This is where Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with me has sat for months, taunting me.
Welcome, or welcome back, to Read Pile, where I, Keigen Rea, and hopefully a large, ever-growing mass of individuals will be, as EIC Dave Shevlin put it, “reducing our read piles to read piles,” and writing about those books, one at a time.
This time it’s me, the I himself, Keigen. Sorry! Better people are coming up, I promise! While you’re here tho, click (this). I had fun writing it and someone Reread Scott Pilgrim because of it, and that was pretty cool.
Anyway, Laura Dean.
Now, I pitched this as a Valentine’s Day kinda thing, which to be real, was completely foolish of me. I don’t really care about Valentine’s Day. My anniversary with my wife is like a month before, and is more fun in every possible way. My wife doesn’t care about it, and for most of the rest of my life I was just emotional support to my friends who didn’t have anyone on it. So.
Fortunately, Laura Dean is a perfect anti-Valentine’s story. Or for me, the perfect Valentine story. Which, of course it is, look at the title!
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me is a story about two things, one of which is the deterioration of the relationship between Laura and Freddie. Like real relationships, that erosion doesn’t happen in a straight line. It’s bad, then it’s okay, then bad, then great, then it all implodes. One of my favorite ways the book showed that was super simple but felt really affective.
This is like comic storytelling 101, but I love the contrast between these two images, and it comes relatively early in the story, when they’re at an okay place in their relationship. The story never hides the fact that it’s about a slowly crumbling romance, but by shoving these images right next to each other, it makes it easier to see that point. Even when they’re pushed as close as possible, with a balloon bridging the distance between them, they’re separate.
These two were never star-crossed lovers destined to be together. It takes work for any relationship to be successful. They weren’t able to do the work needed to clear the distance between panels.
The other thing this comic is about is the love between Doodle and Freddy, and perfectly illustrates what Valentines Day tends to actually be about for me: friendship.
The person that Freddy needs when shit gets shitty? Doodle. And Doodle’s always there for her. Like other similar stories, this one is really about how friendships are just as valuable as romances, and need to be cared for in a similar way. Their friendship takes a dip when Freddy focuses on Laura too much and doesn’t recover until another friend is like, “hey stupid, you’re being a bad friend!”
And that’s really what this comic is about. The problems between Laura and Freddy aren’t romantic in nature, Laura’s just a terrible friend to Freddy. And when Freddy focuses too much on Laura, she becomes a bad friend to Doodle.
Which I mean, is fair. I didn’t hang out with any of my friends for like a year after I got married, and some of those relationships never really recovered. Romance getting in the way of friendship always feels like it could be possible but if it is, it’s hard as hell.
And it’s kind of my thing with Valentine’s Day too, especially in this pandemic year. Living with my wife and working from home with her has been awesome this year, and has made dealing with everything about it that much easier. Even with that help though, I’ve been an ass to my friends.
I’ve been the worst friend this last year! I’ve ignored people, pretended I missed their calls, avoided them at the store, and not reached out when I should have, for myself and them. And now it feels like it’s been too long and there’s no point because they hate me. And I deserve it. So instead I hang out with my wife and my friend who talks to me and all of you on the internet.
But like, let’s be real. That’s bullshit. It’s my brain being wrong about my friends and being bad about contextualizing the whole situation. It doesn’t change the fact that I was an ass and shitty, but that doesn’t mean I have to keep being a shitty ass. I’m gonna try to be a pal.
…you get the pun.
This Read Pile is done, congratulations, and as promised, there are better wordsmiths coming, with the next one coming from PXP’s and uh also a book on one of my favorite series’s ever: Rasmus Lykke. It’s a good one, all about a bunch of Fantastic Four comics, you should read it! And then DM (@prince_organa) me or something about doing one because it’ll be fun!