Margaux Othats’ Blanc would probably have featured in my best comics of 2017 had I written that list during the cold wave hammering most of the East Coast right now. When I pull out my laptop to write this review, my fingers are cold. The wind outside is biting and unforgivingly freezing. It is -24 °C, with the chill, we’re down to -39°C. What little sun there is during the day provide little respite from the cold. Blanc feels like a warm blanket, some sweet voice reminding you that the cold is temporary, that the hard times will end and things will get better soon.
In Blanc, a young girl is drawing at home during a snowstorm. She goes outside to play in the snow. What we are confronted with is a blank page, the snow covering every aspect of the landscape. She begins making a snowball which grows bigger as she rolls it from page to page. As it grows, it reveals the landscape hidden under the snow-covered ground. The green grass appearing in the path left by the snowball. In the end, the snow has all disappeared, leaving the young girl free to revel in the sunlight and do cartwheels in the grass.
It’s a short wordless book with only 24 pages, but it shines in its simplicity, clarity and style. Margaux Othats’ pencil drawings play with the blank page to great effect. The snow is overwhelming, it engulfed everything and nearly makes you forget that there ever was anything but the blinding white of the snow. The snowball revealing the beautiful, lively green grass underneath happens slowly and gives it a magical feeling. Othats is telling a simple story. It’s about seeing something seemingly impossible to overcome and deciding to try anyway. It’s about coming out of one’s shell and letting hope thaw the frost. With hope and efforts, you can accomplish anything. It’s the perfect comic to start the year with. 2017 wasn’t great on a whole number of levels, this comic reminds us that there’s hope in the end, seasons only last so long and Spring will come back, even if we have to work hard to make it happen.
Éditions Magnani, 2017
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.