Part of Conundrum Press’s anniversary ‘Conundrum 25’ series of pocket-sized comics offerings, Elisabeth Belliveau’s Condo Lady is yet another reminder of just how effective graphic narrative has been at communicating and sharing the universal truths of our shared pandemic experiences. Belliveau’s book will touch a particular emotional chord in many, charting two years socially distancing in a 680-square foot condo in a semi-diary comics offering perhaps best summed up in its powerful and yet oddly gentle opening sentences “Two quiet years of full stress”.
What follows is a procession of moments that will either be directly familiar, or represent similar journeys we too went on during lockdown. Some of this is presented in Condo Lady in single images that have no need for further explanation, while others have additional commentary from Belliveau, giving deeper insights into those moments in her life. The ennui of a worklife reduced to digital interactions, the poignancy of only seeing family online, not going to hospital with a broken wrist for fear of catching Covid, ancient Cindy Crawford exercise videos… the universal, the specific, the mundane and the monumental all slowly blurring together.
Belliveau’s approach to documenting those many, many months is to present the reader with a parade of one-page memories that encapsulate those feelings of fear, worry, entrapment, boredom and isolation that we all went through in the first years of this ongoing situation. Using a muddied, grey-washed realism that feels both indistinct and yet still striking, she recreates that indefinable sense of time becoming skewed and experiences merging into each other that will be so recognisable to many of us. It builds up into a comics narrative where the sequential is less important than the immediate; culminating in a more hopeful finale as her life takes a new road.
As I’ve said countlessly over the last couple of years, pandemic comics are going to be an invaluable social document in the years to come. Those wanting to explore this area of practice can find our resource list on the subject here.
Elisabeth Belliveau (W/A) • Conundrum Press, $10.00
Review by Andy Oliver