Li’l Depressed Boy #13 might as well be titled, “We’ve all been there.” I say this because the story follows the fear, excitement and inner dissonance that comes with a first crush. As always, writer S. Steven Struble uses grace and subtly to get his point across. Struble understands that the odd appearance of LDB gives the series a surreal aesthetic, so there’s no reason to add hyperbole to the recipe. This isn’t the over-the-top world of Hate Comics or the quirky hip vibe of Ghost World. Li'l Depressed Boy is something else entirely.
Issue 13 opens with a dream. LDB is moving through all the girls he’s ever loved from afar or tried to get close to. The last girl he chases leads him to Jazz, who tries to answer LDB’s questions by pointing him towards her boyfriend. Finding out Jazz had a boyfriend crushed LDB in real life, and the dream is using that fear to wrack his nerves about his upcoming date with Spike. LDB likes Spike, but he’s afraid, the kind of fear of rejection we’ve all been crippled by.
LDB rises above his fears and goes to dinner with Spike. They hit it off, though how could they not? Spike is a cute redhead who likes sci-fi and all things geek. She’s the type of girl who was second only to the Yeti or Loch Ness Monster in rarity back when I was kid. These days, girls like her are all over, so while my jealous inner child raged that no such girl exists, I had to concede that now, they are around in force. As the date comes to its awkward conclusion, Spike makes the first move and our hero LDB gets some smooch action. If you’re a fan of the book you’ll cheer for LDB, and if you’re just picking it up, you’ll cheer simply because one us got the girl.
Struble’s strength is his ability to control the action. He keeps things at a very moderate pace. We develop our interest in the story just as LDB does, almost in real time. The dialog is spot on but never overbearing, and the plot goes where it needs to go organically. LDB is not the most exciting comic book ever, but it is consistently the most heart warming, charming and fun to read. Struble isn’t interested in opening this world up to everybody. If you get what he does, then you’ll love it, if not, then you will never understand it.
Helping this surreal world find life is the beautifully understated art of Sina Grace. The work here is focused only on the characters within the panel. Spike and LDB are drawn beautifully, with a real sense of delicate pencil strokes and moderate inking. Grace’s backgrounds are usually clean, devoid of too much detail and there only to give the characters a framework to exist in. Much like the writing, the art in Li'l Depressed Boy makes its point subtly and skillfully. Though it doesn’t come out nearly enough, every issue of this series is a treat.
(4 Story 4 Art)