For her follow up to the critically acclaimed The Rabbit, Rachael Smith brings back an old favourite in her new book Artificial Flowers from Avery Hill Publishing. But these days House Party’s Siobhan has more to more to worry about than a few unruly guests – she has to navigate the perils of the London art scene while also looking after her angsty teenage brother!
The last time we saw Siobhan, the star of Artificial Flowers, she was sorting out drunken guests in Smith’s debut book House Party. Now she is an aspiring artist, looking to navigate the complexities of the London art scene and get her big break. However when her parents send her pyromaniac brother to live with her (a character previously seen in Smith’s I Am Fire) things get a tad complex as he begins to have an influence on her work, which unfortunately for her is a positive one, that in turn puts a strain on her fledgling relationship with a super trendy gallery owner. So can she juggle all of this without getting burnt (both figuratively and literally?!)
Unlike the rather surreal and thought-provoking The Rabbit (which we personally found to be quite a difficult read), Smith’s Artificial Flowers is a much more accessible book. With some great characters and a simple and engaging plot, it should be perfect for bringing in new readers to Smith’s work as it has a very Boom! Studios feel to it, and is reminiscent of the wonderful Giant Days, with it’s mix of strong, yet vulnerable female characters trying to make sense of the world and develop their own identity at a key point in their early adulthood.
A perfect case in point is Smith’s portrayal of Siobhan’s relationship with her super trendy gallery owner, who just happens to be another woman. As with fellow Avery Hill creator Tillie Walden, the relationship is handled in a completely believable and identifiable way that never makes you think this is done for effect, or to be different and is just something completely in keeping for the character and the world they live in. Although it doesn’t feel done for effect, it does helps to make the book feel more interesting, and sets itself apart from the standard girl meets boy stories that we might read in a more mainstream book.
Visually, Smith’s artwork feels much together and more in-depth than on The Rabbit which often felt very open and free with it’s story-telling. Perhaps this is the upshot of working on Dr Who (as she discussed with us last month) and it means that every page is packed with tons of detail and narrative to get your teeth into.
Compared to Smith’s previous work, Artificial Flowers feels like a real step up in quality with the story telling and art really finding it’s own identity and voice. Although the visuals look and feel similar to those of John Allison or Noelle Stevenson and have a very contemporary ‘indie’ style to them, Smith should very much be considered a contemporary of those two, rather than a follower, as her work is every bit as accomplished and deserving of the level of plaudits that those receive.
If you love Lumberjanes or Giant Days then you will love Artificial Flowers, but also if you are simple looking for something that is different to the average comic book out there, that doesn’t insult your intelligence and most importantly will leave you with a big smile on your face at the end, then you should definitely be giving this book a read as Smith has really stepped up her game for this one, and unlike Siobhan has not had to rely on a troublesome sibling to achieve it.