I have, as you probably know, become increasingly interested in European comics over the past couple of years. This has been largely through my discovery of the Cinebook translations, though other suppliers have come on the scene to broaden my horizons. The most admirable and intoxicating books I have come across so far have been Peter Pan, from Soaring Penguin, and The Hartlepool Monkey, from Knockabout. I can add Wrinkles to this list without any reservation. This slice-of-life story has not only deepened my appreciation of the European scene, but of the medium of comics as a whole.

Wrinkles looks at the lives of Ernest, a retired bank manager who finds himself placed in a home for the elderly; and Émile, a roguish resident who takes Ernest under his wing. The book is essentially a collection of personal stories and anecdotes from residents and staff at care homes, woven into a tragi-comic tapestry by the talented Spanish artist, Paco Roca. His visual style is clean and appealing to the eye, blending simple line-work and blocks of warm colour with subtle shadows and a keen eye for characterisation. Émile’s story reminds us that every O.A.P. was a young person tricked by time, while Ernest’s journey breeds compassion and consideration in the hardest of hearts.

You might think that life in a care home would offer little in the way of interest to either residents or reader but Roca never lets our attention wander. He engages our sympathies and understanding of each person through natural dialogue (rather than exposition) and the marvellous trick of depicting their inner world on the occasions when we see events from a different resident’s perspective. It should be confusing to the senses but the narrative carries it through as though it were the most natural form of storytelling in the world.

For some readers, the trials and tribulations of the characters will be all too familiar. Alzheimer’s is a brutal disease, affecting more and more people both directly and indirectly. Their burdens may be made lighter by sharing Wrinkles with others and using it to start talking about their own experiences. For others, the truths inside will be hard to handle. People don’t like talking about old age because it’s scary, humiliating and inevitable. I found the book profoundly disquieting, as must surely be the intention, yet the rays of humour and hope that light up the book shine all the brighter for their seeming futility.

This is not a lecture or lesson, but a window into a world we prefer not to see. It will make you laugh, it will make you angry and you will probably shed a tear or two. There is a real love and generosity of spirit worked incrementally into the pages though. It may be hard to see at times but your fingers pick it up with each turn of the page, and it changes you. By the end you will see the world with new eyes. It is old, it is beautiful, and it matters a great deal.

GS Rating: 5/5

GS Blogger: Dion Winton-Polak

By the way, I have just learned that there was a Spanish-made animation of Wrinkles made back in 2011. I have no idea how good the adaptation was or even if there is an English language version available. If anyone has seen it then please leave a comment below to tell us what you thought of it, and how easy it is to get hold of a copy.

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