Hurd, Damon illus. by Christopher Steininger. The White Elephant. Alternative Comics, 2004. unpaged. ISBN 1-891867-644 $8.95
Presented as a play, our curtain opens on insomniac Gene, who has reluctantly returned to his psychiatrist to discuss a recurring dream about one of the last time he saw his estranged family, reliving the day of discovery of the molestation of his younger sister Hannah by their step-grandfather. The white elephant in the room is not the abuse, but Hannah herself, and the guilt that her presence brings. As Gene struggles to name his demons and accept responsibility only for the things he could have changed, a family’s drama is played out.
The reliance on dialogue means that the illustrations must fill in the gaps to describe the action, convey mood and show what the character is thinking and not necessarily saying.
Here Steininger excels. The illustrations are sketchy and sharp, and the cleverly chosen font has the look of a typewritten medical case file. The choice of black and white to tell the story adds another layer to the good/evil, dream/reality theme.
The stage becomes an excellent vehicle for presenting a story with both flashbacks and dream sequences. The design, which includes a few boxed panels against a larger backdrop, is very effective in spotlighting significant scenes or events while helping the reader keep track of what is “real” and what is memory Gene can observe, interact and evaluate events in his life so he can learn and grow, and finally rest.