Looking Straight Ahead is a story about mental illness. It’s a fascinating view into the mind that finds a suitable home within the medium. What better form of artistic expression could capture an illness that invokes delusions? Due to the subject matter of the story the sequence of events jumps around in places. For instance the story opens up to a scene that takes place much later in the timeline, but it’s a fitting spot to start at. This is where we meet Jeremy as he walks down a busy road in freezing cold weather wearing only a hoodie. After his collapse into the snow we’re talking to the start of our timeline. We find Jeremy and his friend Lee goofing off in the library before they’re harassed by some stuck up girl who feels the need to pick on Jeremy specifically. He leaves not wanting to be verbally abused anymore and we see him run into his crush Erin. The problem is that one of the few friends he has is dating Erin so he has no chance with her. We continue with his day and seeing what his norm is by following him home on a city bus. A woman begins yelling at him telling him to tell her the future that he sees with his binoculars forcing him to get off the bus blocks before his real stop.
Jeremy has another problem that’s starting to affect him, he doesn’t sleep. He tries to but his mind ends up wandering instead making him extremely tired and moody. We see some of the good that’s in Jeremy’s life like getting a hard to find album, but mostly his life continues to be difficult. He has a ton of attitude with his father, but it’s clear that both men don’t really feel anger towards each other, they’re just frustrated and don’t know how to communicate. After some bullying Jeremy freaks out in class and is suspended; this is also around the time that he begins having delusions 24/7 and starts believing that they’re real.
This story comes across as a deeply personal piece of work. I’m not going to assume to know or speculate on Elaine Will’s history, but I will say that she handles the subject matter with grace and maturity. I think of Polarity which also deals with a mental illness, but unlike Look Straight Ahead, Polarity didn’t handle the subject matter with the same couth. You can’t help but feel for Jeremy and relate to areas of his life. Just about everyone has been picked on or felt out-of-place before and that’s Jeremy’s every day experience. That doesn’t mean you just feel sorry for him when his delusions hit, but rather you want to understand what’s happening to him as much as his parents do. Will does an incredible job of making a story that is relatable and interesting.
As strong as the narration is, the visual storytelling is superior and Will relies on that for much of the story (also that’s not to say that the narrative is bad by any means). As I said, what better medium is there for this subject matter? Will is able to show Jeremy’s visions and twist them into the story to become more than just drawings and out-of-place images, but meaningful contributors to the plot and character’s journey. The story is mostly in black and white with a few well-placed colored panels which is a huge strength of this story. The black and white allows Will to play with the contrasts and negative space that full color wouldn’t allow for. Personally I really liked Will’s style and would definitely like to see more from her. Her style is very cool and something I’m drawn to when picking out a story to read.
This is a book that probably won’t appeal to everyone. Not everyone wants a window into a mind with problems, but if you’re interested to see how others think and more interested in their journey to overcome their problems then you’ll find this to be an incredibly motivating story. It actually took me a while to sit down and review this one because it left me thinking well after I was done reading. Any comic that can do that is worth a purchase in my book.