About as different as can be from the creator of ‘Badger vs. Tiger’, John Cei Douglas brings us ‘a silently sequential narrative journey’ in All The Places In Between – a subtle and thoughtful look at mental health and identity from Liminal 11.
We first met john at ELCAF back in 2017 and were drawn to his table by the brilliantly name Badger vs Tiger, but was really drawn into his wonderful world of story telling with anthology Show Me The Map To Your Heart and his collection of short stories, Static. It’s been far too long since we have seen new work from John, and so when we heard he was working on a new book for Mike Medaglia’s Liminal 11 we were over the moon.
All The Places In Between is described as “a silently sequential narrative journey exploring mental health and our sense of self” and is told in a wordless form in beautifully compact format. We recently wrote about the challenge of both reading and reviewing silent comics in our review of Emre Altindag’s Fishes May Comic Back, and those issues are equally relevant here as this is definitely a book which you experience as much as you read in a traditional sense. It is also a book which revels in the quiet moments rather than those of high drama and so is a quietly thoughtful read which is as much about what is implied and what you take from it, as what is said out right.
The story, such as it is, sees a young girl taken into an Alice in Wonderland like day dream vortex where she encounters a dark haired girl (an inverse of herself perhaps?) and she is then taken on a journey through a variety of dreamlike states, that could be seen to represent her various mental states. These ranges from a friendly lighthouse, to the rubble of a broken city through to an underwater cave.
As with Fishes May Come Back, the art has to do a lot of the heavy lifting here and the reader has to take time and consideration to apply their own interpretation of the actions onto the events of the story. Is each incident a manifestation of a particular emotion or a solution to it? Fortunately
John has this gloriously light touch and the really imaginative range of concepts and location within the book makes it a wonderful thing to read and explore. Tonally, it reminded us of Tillie Walden’s early work with its ambitious dream-like worlds and muted colour scheme on the cover. However the line work has a classic British small press style to it, evoking memories of perennial favourites like Matthew Dooley’s Flake to Josh Hicks’ non-wrestling work in Human Garbage.
While it relies on a lot of visual metaphors it never hammers home the obviousness of them, and so you are left to interpret what John is trying to achieve with each scenario in your own way. His range of styles compliment each scene. For example using a much looser simpler style for the dream like class room scenes, a more painterly approach for the space scenes, or a more broken panel structure for upheaval of the tidal wave.
While it doesn’t necessarily resolve in a traditional sense, it has a very cyclical feel that brings things to a close. Ultimately what you get out of the book is down to you as an individual, but the over riding message seem to be that things will be OK in the end, no matter what yo go through to get there. It is as much a reflection of personal mental health and identity as it is a way to address those issues and as such, The Places in Between is a very subtle, but beautifully realised book.
A visual triumph and a wonderfully lilting and dreamlike read that you feel yourself drifting into and taking in, rather than reading and analysing in a traditional way. While not the most immediate of reads in terms of plot, it has this subtle beauty and quiet stillness to it that makes The Places In Between a very thoughtful and calming read – which is something we all need in the tumultuous world we all live in!