Boilet's graphic novel YUKIKO'S SPINACH answers that age-old question "Can a book be charming, tender and, at the same time, ever so slightly sad and creepy?" Why, yes - yes it can!
Yukiko is a young Japanese woman and the titular spinach is actually her navel. Our hero, a French ex-pat, confuses the two words (apparently very similar in Japanese) during a pre-coital exploratory feel-up. Yukiko is endlessly amused, and who can blame her, really? It's awfully cute.
Less cute is the strange dynamic of their relationship. Remember "ever so slightly sad and creepy"? Cue the tummy ache: Yukiko meets French guy at an art opening, she gives her phone number to French Guy and to his pal, Hashimoto. French Guy calls Yukiko, they make a date, he declares his love and inquires as to whether she thinks she could love him "a little." She thinks maybe she could, but she's more interested in Hashimoto. Sadly, Hashimoto has a girlfriend. But wait – it turns out the girlfriend lives in Brazil and is only in town for ten days. (Whew.) So French guys proposes that he and Yukiko hook up for ten days while they wait for Hashimoto's girlfriend (and friend of a decade) to go back to Brazil.
I suppose it could be sexy in a Les Liaisons Dangereuses kind of way, but it just isn't. The problem is in the writing – the characters are woefully underdeveloped and as a result, this "love" they speak of is at best, implausible and at worst, vaguely predatory.
So, if the characterization is weak, why am I covering it for artbomb? Because it's stunningly beautiful. It's stunningly beautiful and Boilet understands visual pacing in a way that produces a steady soundtrack in my imaginary ear. Because he takes advantage of his medium and plays with devices that only comics will allow; because he cuts to a fanciful panel of Yukiko on a tropical beach when French Guy realizes her chicken pox scar looks like Bora Bora; because he inserts Daytimer pages with sketches on them as transitional elements and their presence brings a sense of intimacy to the tale; and because while I may not believe the love story in the context of the tale, I do believe wholly and absolutely that Boilet loves to draw Yukiko and that that passion is enough to transcend the plot and bring romance to YUKIKO'S SPINACH.
Kelly Sue DeConnick relocated from Brooklyn, New York to Kansas City, MO, where she lives with her husband and artbomb.net colleague, Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue writes the English adaptations of several manga titles published by Tokyopop and Viz. She can be found on the web at kellysue.com.