You remember Richard Mcguire’s Here, one of the graphic standouts of 2015? A beautifully drawn book in which the same room is seen from the same angle, in a non linear way over a vast period of time. The Park Bench, the first of Christopher Chaboute’s books to be published in English (we say English, The Park Bench is wordless), is not a million miles from Here. Where McGuire had a room, Chaboute has a – you guessed it – park bench, which we view from different angles, to be sure, but from which we do not stray.
We open with a pair of youngsters, a boy carving a declaration of love into one of the upper slats of a park bench. It doesn’t entirely go to plan. This, we see, can be the site of tiny tragedies. A man walks by on his way home from work, a lady passes with shopping bags. A dog takes a piss. A man walks by on his way to work. An old couple sit and share a cake. A tramp takes a swig from his latest purchase until he gets moved on by an irate policeman. A runner limbers up. The tramp returns at night, for a sleep. A dog takes a piss. A man walks by on his way to work. The tramp. Some old ladies. A repairman. A couple of strangers talking on their phones. The runner. A man waits holding a bunch of flowers. The repairman. The policeman. The tramp.
Familiar faces circle about the bench. We follow their stories. Seasons pass. Years. The old couple and their moment of tenderness, the tramp and the policeman’s sparring, the old lady with her Barbara Cartland, the lady whose path takes in unhappy correspondence, pregnancy and, possibly, cancer. It’s a view of the world from the most unlikely of perspectives. This isn’t Peanuts, we don’t get to hear from the bench itself (although we do feel slightly sorry for it in inclement weather or when a skateboarder uses it as a ramp). But we do get to sample a taste of the great many stories that pass by.
The art is stark, black and white, occasionally framed, sometimes not. Imagine Sin City if Sin City was less interested in style and more interested in effect. There is a deceptive simplicity to proceedings, a gracefulness; life passes. And yet, when life asserts itself, with all of its ups and downs, I defy you not to have a lump in your throat. In point of fact, if you watched the first 10 minutes of Pixar’s Up and shed a tear – then we guarantee you will again here.
Any Cop?: It’s not quite the masterpiece that Here was but it is very very good and we look forward to Alone, due in 2018, with much eagerness.