In 2008, I attempted the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostella. I’m not a particularly religious or spiritual person so the draw was in the experience of the road, the people and the vistas. The camino was calling out to me, often, in the periphery of my life. I had heard about it since I was a child, people walking it and talking at length about their experience. I had to go, I had to experience it. Perhaps I was also looking for something, but I am unsure of what that would have been. Things didn’t go as I expected and things piled up on top of one another so as to make it a less than stellar trip. My map got stolen, I got lost on the road, arrived in a town to refill water bottles only to find they had an aqueduct issue preventing me from doing so I had to walk to the next town with no water, etc. After a quarter of the road was done, I abandoned the road. I had failed to achieve a lifelong ambition to complete this pilgrimage, but in spite of this, I don’t think this was all in vain.
The description on the cover of Ley Lines #9: Enter, Holy Pilgrim, is simply “A troubled serf seeks spiritual guidance on a pilgrimage”. Laila Milevski explores this drive, this calling to take to the road to discover something. Her main character is in a bad position, after the able bodied men in her family passed away, her family’s debt to the lord of the manor are overdue, but she can has asked for a delay to undertake a pilgrimage, something she hopes will allow her a way out, or at least a way forward. She has gone to her local church for guidance, but the words heard there are too common and useless. “I didn’t hear the Seigneur, nor his mother. Ma mère et ma reine. Toute seule, j’étais toute seule.” The words are holy, but the feelings are not. As she wanders the dark halls of the church near her house, she feels alone. She is alone. The pilgrimage then becomes a way to escape her predicament and to buy time to find a solution, but underneath this practical layer, it is to seek spiritual guidance.
Each issues of Ley Lines focuses on the intersections of comics and art. Milevski’s focus is on gothic architecture and really uses the style to reinforce her story. Architecture isn’t the point of the story, but it allows the story to come into focus and allow it’s resolution. Gothic architecture had plenty of innovative features, pointed arches and robbed vaultings provided more structural supprt than the former Romanesque style. This allowed the buildings to have more windows and more light. Perhaps the simple warm glow of light inside a tall building is enough to create an epiphany? After a long pilgrimage, our protagonist is smitten upon entering a cathedral. The light engulfs the interior of both the building and our protagonist, it lifts her spirit. She comes out of her pilgrimage with a renewed drive for she doesn’t feel alone anymore. The majesty of the building allowed her to feel a Holy power.
Milevski’s art is printed in burgundy ink on a cream paper. The burgundy ink gives the comic a truly unique look and a warmth that I rarely see. She is able to masterfully play with light and darkness, an important element since light is such an integral part of the story. I can’t think of a better artist for this tale. Her characters are evocative, her focus on architecture is detailed and appropriately picturesque. It’s a beautiful comic. I’ve read it when it came out and multiple times since. It’s a dark, yet very hopeful comic of the kind that creates fans for life. You’ll want to see all of Milevski’s comics.
Ley Lines has quickly established itself as one of the most avant-garde comic publishing project of the moment. A comic book is a piece of art in its own way, but how does art influence comics. What does the work of Egon Schiele, Pablo Picasso or Cy Twombly bring to comics? What are their influence on artists creating comics? This is a valuable dialog to engage in. By giving space to artists to explore their artistic interests in their own way allows for an exciting way to look at comics as an art form, not simply as an insular self-referencing genre. but as an endlessly malleable mold. This issue is just another example of the relevance of this project. With plenty more issues to come this year, it is a worthwhile dialog to jump in.
Ley Lines #9: Enter, Holy Pilgrim
Czap Books & Grindstone Comics
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.