THOUGHT BUBBLE 2023! Another debuting comic at this year’s Thought Bubble, Lor Phoenix and KitsuneArt’s Starlit Lovers is a slice-of-life story where the echoes of the past make themselves heard with a resounding resonance in the present. It’s a short but rewarding character study centring on two friends, Tessa and Drew, whose lives cross once again many years after they last saw each other as teens. Prior to Drew’s abrupt departure with her family the pair had shared a kiss; a moment of intimacy that has had a lingering and haunting effect on their lives in the intervening years. Will they be able to resume their relationship from where they left off? Or has too much time passed for them?
Phoenix’s story is not about elaborate plot or intricate narrative structure; rather it’s a focussed character-led piece of writing that considers familiar themes of friendship, moving on, growing apart, and how lost opportunities sometimes never really leave us. What works especially well here is that we feel a strong connection with each character in such a short page count, with Phoenix’s considered dialogue ensuring not just our empathy with the two young women but also our deep understanding of their regrets and anxieties about what could have been.
KitsuneArt’s visual choices are excellent in their conveyance of these themes. The muted colours allow for the emotive character beats to really stand out, and for a distinct but inextricable contrast between past and present to be made. Neat lettering tricks abound (Tessa’s inner voice commenting on her own speech balloon dialogue for example) and the sidesteps into phone text conversations always complement the rhythm of the story rather than distract from it. Just look at the double-page spread above and the sheer confidence of its construction and layout.
Importantly for an offering like this the creators know when to let visual characterisation to do all the speaking. Starlit Lovers is a touching and pensive LGBTQ love story, and another debut comic to add to your Thought Bubble shopping lists.
Lor Phoenix (W), KitsuneArt (A) • Self-published, £10.00
KitsuneArt is at Table E12-B in the Redshirt Hall at Thought Bubble 2023
Review by Andy Oliver