Olivia Sualdea has always shown an acute understanding of how to utilise potent visual metaphor to convey emotional state through the delicate control of panel-to-panel flow in her pages. That One October collects the 2019 Broken Frontier ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch‘ artist’s Inktober comics from 2017, combining both symbolism and slice-of-life vignettes to bring some of existence’s smaller but no less important moments together with a fragile humanity and an expressive universality.
When I interviewed Sualdea about her work earlier this year she said of That One October “It is rather precious to me as I was going through the difficult transition stage from university to the harsh reality of real life that many students go through, and other difficult moments I was going through at the time.”
Comprising largely short, one-page, “silent” strips, That One October elicits a wide range of emotional responses from Sualdea’s audience in a compressed amount of time. Moments of anxiety and personal turmoil take on a slightly surreal quality – Sualdea’s visage slowly sinking into the surrounding gloom of the page, for example, or darkness descending down panels to literally oppress her on-page incarnation.
Nighttime restlessness, solitude interrupted by welcome companionship, and unspoken displays of affection are just some of the emotional places Sualdea guides us to in these pages. Her use of light and shade is exemplary in shifting the mood dynamics in her strips but it’s also her understated cartooning, careful pacing and subtle manipulation of the passage of time between panels that shines here.
Returning to that Broken Frontier interview Sualdea also said of her comics practice “I love that you don’t need words to tell a story. You can capture an emotion simply through pictures and subtle changes in the characters’ movement or expression, which to me can be more powerful than words.” That’s something that’s very much in evidence in That One October.
Review by Andy Oliver