Autobio comics work has risen in popularity over the last decade largely due to a growing understanding that the complex language of the form is incredibly effective in communicating personal experience. Autobiographical comics allow us to inhabit the worldviews of others in ways that no other medium can, giving us the opportunity to empathise through recognisable and shared experience. But they’re an equally powerful narrative tool when the stories being told have no common connective elements as Clio Isadora’s Is it Vague in Other Dimensions? – detailing a childhood being raised by anti-vaxxer, conspiracy theorist parents – ably shows.
Isadora’s comics short is an account that proves the veracity of that hoary old cliche that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. It begins with her realisation as a child that being excused from vaccinations at school may not have been the privilege she initially imagined. From there it quickly becomes a bizarre procession of skewed parental responsibilities as we visit a childhood where taking acid in the family home is acceptable but being vaccinated (and ending up becoming a potential governmental soldier zombie thanks to the “slave gene” hidden in each jab!) isn’t.
And therein lies the almost morbidly voyeuristic appeal of this story because the stranger it gets the more captivated the reader becomes. From her mother’s accounts of her past life as an alien insect on Venus (where she met Jesus) to the strange rituals of conspiracy conventions events just get odder and odder in a rising narrative crescendo of the paranoid and the delusional. And as this catalogue of extreme eccentricity grows ever more unbelievable so too do our sympathies with its protagonist become all the more pronounced.
Isadora’s art has a raw directness that doesn’t just communicate her on-page persona’s ordeal it positively insists that we absorb and live it. The slice-of-life and the darkly fantastic merge (as most obviously seen in the depiction of her mother as the Venusian insect alien she claims to be) and fantasy cutaways underline the shifts between reality and bizarreness that are a central part of her younger years.
While Is it Vague in Other Dimensions? ends on a pithy note there’s a feeling there’s an awful lot more to be explored here and I hope that’s the case. Because there’s the making of a far more elaborate long-form book here and its promise is undeniable.
Review by Andy Oliver