A compilation of Tillie Walden’s published works with Avery Hill? All in one volume? Sign us up! Featuring a variety of genres and art styles from the gothic to the love-story to surrealism, Tillie Walden’s Alone in Space brings together some of our very favourite comics from the last few years! But can this new collection live up to our lofty expectations?
Publisher: Avery Hill
Writer: Tillie Walden
Artist: Tillie Walden
Price: £24.99 from Avery Hill
One of the lovely things about Alone is Space is how personal it feels. Right from the first page, we are given a stellar introduction from Warren Bernard on author/illustrator Tillie Walden’s life & history. It’s impossible for Tillie not to feel like an old friend, as we learn about the wonderful influence Winsor Mccay’s comics and architecture designs had on her work from a young age, and about her love for Studio Ghibli and its visual inspiration.
The first of Tillie’s longer three comics in this volume is The End of Summer, Tillie’s graphic novel debut. Set in a suitably gothic castle at the beginning of a three-year long winter, our protagonist is a young boy, Lars, who fears he is going to die. We mostly hear from Lars’s depressed inner monologue; his unsaid thoughts about his imminent death and his feelings about his siblings (who are all fascinating characters). It’s impossible not to get a case of cabin fever reading this, as Walden does a superb job of relating the character’s claustrophobic surroundings. Tillie’s black and white pencil illustrations set a sense of impending doom, while her straight-lined panels capture the rigidness of Lar’s new boxed-in routine. A lovely addition is Lars’s life-size cat Nemo (clearly inspired by Studio Ghibli) who brings a feeling of magic and child-like escapism to the story. But nothing can quite take away from the dark family tensions that begin to simmer…
The second lengthy work featured is I Love This Part, which is a much more uplifting tale! Illustrated with a gorgeous purple hue, this story follows two schoolgirls who are best friends, and spend their time enjoying each other’s company. As their connection begins to grow deeper, they form a romantic relationship. Stylistically, this couldn’t be more different from The End of Summer. There’s very little text per page, and most of the story is told visually. The formatting here features full-page spreads, rather than individual panels, which really compliment and highlight the detailed colouring. Tillie’s use of colour to show emotion is excellent – when the girls are happy together, purple accents are added around them. In instances where they are separated or unhappy, the pages are simply illustrated in black and white. An almost lyrical, feel-good piece.
Last but not least of Tillie’s full-length additions is A City Inside. Similar to The End of Summer, the formatting of this is black and white with multiple panels per page. This one begins ambiguously, with a woman lying down on a bed speaking to, from what we can deduce, a healer or therapist. Our story retrospectively begins in her memories with her childhood, growing up in the south. An interesting subversion here is that this is told in third person, rather than first, almost as if the healer is telling the woman’s story for her. After leaving her home at the age of 15 and finding city life with its mirage of faceless people too mundane, our protagonist decides to live in the sky, with her cat Nancy. Until she meets a girl and falls in love. There’s just one problem; the girl wants to live in the real world. It’s difficult to recognise what’s real and what isn’t throughout this one, but that’s the beauty of it – it doesn’t need clearly defined lines to tell a universally felt story – one of loneliness, and not belonging, but also of recognition and acceptance. This was wonderfully illustrated, particularly the use of architecture in the cities, both on earth and in the sky. We love the magical realism vibes!
The last third of the book is a compilation of Tillie’s shorter comics (around a few pages each) that she wrote from the ages of 16-20 years old. They range from serious topics like bullying and car-crashes to gorgeous portraits of Studio Ghibli heroines. It was great seeing all the different art styles and genres that Tillie has experimented with. There’s a fabulously illustrated Q&A, which gives us some more lovely facts about Tillie (& we even spotted a cute Moomin hiding in one of the smaller panels!), as well as a myriad of colours exploding from the short comic The Fader. We even got a throwback to The End of Summer, with a short but sweet comic explaining how Lars met his fluffy cat Nemo!
This was such a magical and fascinating collection, showcasing a huge variety of art-styles, genres and colour palettes. Alone in Space is a truly superb compendium. A brilliant addition to her collection of work at Avery Hill and a must-read for longtime fans [like us], as well as those who might only recently discovered her work through books like Spinning or On A Sunbeam, or, who may never have read her work in the first place. And what a joyous experience you will have reading this for the first time!