Visual interpretations of depression and anxiety understandably tend to use similar metaphorical standards to express the experience of living with those conditions. That however is never a weakness underlining, as it does, a commonality to our perceptions of those debilitating darker times. In The Black Cloud Dominique Duong – one of this year’s Broken Frontier ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch’ – collects together deeply resonant imagery in one zine-style compilation that will speak to many who have lived through similar periods.
Duong provides context in a foreword that is admirable for its honesty and openness, displaying a candour that immediately forges a strong rapport between reader and creator. There she speaks of the cathartic element of the work but also reminds us that mental health issues will touch us all at some point, that we are not alone in our struggles.
The Black Cloud is not comics as such – it’s a procession of single illustrations – but like comics’ own “reading-between-the panels” comprehension Duong asks us to adopt a similar “around-the-image” interpretation of events, teasing or filling in a greater narrative surrounding each individual and situation. Characters literally crack and fall apart before our eyes, are weighed down by their stresses, or have their worries seep out of them in varying degrees, incapacitating or immobilising them.
In the macabre symbolism of these pages Dominique Duong provides us with a series of fractured moments that are powerful, striking and eerily empathetic. Those with an interest in graphic medicine in particular will find this of interest. We will be returning to the work of this versatile artist again in the not too distant future…
Review by Andy Oliver