In Don’t Go Without Me, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s masterful comic storytelling takes us to three extensively detailed, captivating worlds where we are given space to reflect on love and memory, and how they intertwine. This trio of comics is a wonderful amalgamation of fantasy and science fiction, featuring lovers who decide to celebrate their anniversary in another dimension, a disaster onboard a memory-powered spaceship, and a world in which a sleeping giant is about to finally wake up.
Valero-O’Connell uses panels eloquently to support her storytelling; often our focus is concentrated not through direct panel borders but instead through a gentle nudging caused by the natural composition of illustrative elements and a skilful use of perspective. Indeed, the restrictive colour palette shifts our focus down its gradient of warm greys towards the warmer pinks or negative space. This allows the worlds created to feel expansive and, therefore, more immersive. On top of this, Valero-O’Connell uses the design and geometric arrangement of panels to reflect the psychedelic nature of her stories, reinforcing their otherworldly settings.
In all three stories, dialogue and narrative is often told with the careful deliberation and detail of poetry, making the act of reading these comics a blissful and contemplative experience. There is a theme of memory running through all three stories, and panels are used to express the various aspects of this. For example, by laying and intersplicing one scene over another, Valero-O’Connell shows the intrusion of a memory onto the current moment. Likewise, through larger spreads made up of panels showing us restrictive, close-up hints of scenes, we are able to grasp simultaneously the intangibility and persistence of certain memories.
Each story in Don’t Go Without Me is a psychedelic fable which involves the reader very intimately in their poignant, provoking and personal narratives. Valero-O’Connell’s beautiful spreads balance immense detail and powerful compositions with soft words and captivating storytelling. Shortbox have chosen well with their support of this artist, and we should be eagerly anticipating future releases.
Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (W) • Shortbox, £14.00
Review by Rebecca Burke