Hearts and History
Hope Larson’s Mercury
by Molly Templeton
Hope Larson’s Mercury (Atheneum, $9.99) is gorgeous. Her panels seem straightforward, even stylistically familiar, but her characters — whether 16-year-old Tara Fraser or Tara’s ancestor Josey, 150 years ago — are capable of impossibly precise changes in expression and shifts in body language. Sound effects creep into Larson’s magical, carefully pitched story: The wind goes hwooo in a looping script, and a lump of gold tmps against a tabletop. Tara’s era is framed in white margins and Josey’s in black, which does more than neatly indicate the narrative’s shifts; it nudges at the tone of their stories, which both involve gold, love, family and a house in Nova Scotia. Larson’s Canadian details are as charming as the eye she shows for the push-pull of family relationships, especially those between concerned mothers and headstrong daughters. A story about getting and not getting what you think you want, Mercury is a beautiful, quiet triumph.
Larson is in Portland this weekend as part of the Stumptown Comics Fest, at which comics creators, fans, scholars (including the UO’s Ben Saunders) and more appear from near and far to give workshops, panels and presentations. Info for creators about rights and contracts; Q&As with the likes of Craig Thompson (Blankets); a discussion of what goes right (and wrong) when comics are adapted into films; help with locally creating a book; an endless and alluring list of exhibitors — Stumptown packs an impressive array of helpful, interesting and entertaining comics stuff into just two days. Larson, with Raina Telgemeier and Alexis Fajardo, speaks on “Comics for Younger Readers” (moderated by young adult author and librarian Sara Ryan) at 2 pm Saturday, April 24; the previous night, Friday, April 23, she hosts Drink & Draw Like a Lady, an informal gathering for women who draw, write, study, edit, letter, sell or otherwise engage with comics, from 7 pm to midnight at the wonderful Secret Society (details at drawlikealady.com). For more information on Stumptown Comics Fest, which takes place April 24 and 25, see www.stumptowncomics.com