A former bank manager in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s may seem an unusual central premise for a graphic novel but Paco Roca’s Wrinkles defies your expectations to deliver a heart warming and poignant tale of what happens to us in our twilight years.
Publisher: Knockabout Comics
Writer/Artist: Paco Roca
Price: $8.99 from Sequential
Ernest was once a bank manager. A respected member of the community and a man who made important decisions about people’s lives and future. But now he is old, in the early stages of dementia and his family are struggling to look after him. So they send him to a nursing home where he meets a motley crew of patients and friends who both help and hinder him in his twilight years.
What makes Wrinkles such a wonderful read are the beautifully realised characters Ernest meets in the home who welcome him in to this new world and introduce him to the rules and quirks of his new way of life.
Along with Ernest, the true star of the book is his room mate Emile. This life long bachelor and chancer revels in having no family but there is a tragic core to him as he exploits the other residents to fill the gaps in his life. His con tricks to elicit money out of the residents and his habit of stealing from Ernest make you genuinely hate him for his duplicitous actions. However, by the end he redeems himself with the kindness he shows and you almost end up liking the guy as you realise he is a tragic and flawed character instead of the one-dimensional villain he could easily have ended up as.
It is this subtlety of story telling which makes Wrinkles such a delightful read. As well as chronicling the drudgery of life in the home with the endless naps, meals and drugs rounds (which Roca accomplishes brilliantly with tight panel structures, especially a 12 panel double page spread showing the mundanity of day), his characters also go off on crazy adventures (such as a joy ride in a convertible) or disappear into their own fantasy worlds (like Mrs Rose on the train to Istanbul) and Roca does this without ever making the characters actions seem trite or insensitive.
The artwork certainly helps here as it is cartoonish, but never twee. The muted colour scheme gives the whole book an autumnal feel which is warm and welcoming and not at all jarring with the subject matter which allows the book to subtly tug at the heart strings as you watch an old man alone in the world, slowly losing his grip on what he once was and trying not to end up being sent to the ‘first floor’ (where all the no-hopers live!) The way Roca represents the decline in Ernest’s memory are some of the most emotive comic pages we have seen all year and makes the whole book a thoroughly rewarding and emotional read.
For anyone who has ageing parents or family in nursing homes it will hit home with added poignancy, but Roca’s story is so well told we imagine it to be just as affecting even without that connection. After all, we all have parents and the concept of them growing old and fading away is something many of us will ultimately have to deal with. Or it is something we ourselves may one day have t confront, so perhaps reading a book like this can make the process that little bit easier. And if it doesn’t it is still an utterly spell-binding and truly wonderful read.
(Editors Note: As a result of our review guidelines that reward digital innovation we were unable to award Wrinkles full marks. However it is more than worthy of the accolade.)