But You Have Friends

Top Shelf Comics. Aug. 2023. 116p. ISBN 9781603095273. pap. $14.99. MEMOIR
McKenzie’s friend Charlotte died by suicide in 2018, but this isn’t a chronicle of mental illness, a dissection of a tragedy, or a wild cry of unbounded grief. Rather, it’s McKenzie’s dry-eyed chronicle of a long friendship: in high school in the late ’90s when the pair bonded over their oddball status; a winding, complicated relationship in college; and long-distance, supportive communication as they entered adulthood. Charlotte’s psychological struggles were evident but often not obvious, though as she got older, her life was increasingly marked by drug overdoses and inpatient hospitalizations. The author expresses her own paralysis in the face of Charlotte’s struggles—she didn’t understand how to help, how to respond, or if anything on her part could have better supported her friend’s mental health—questions all heartbreakingly impossible to answer. Simple cartoon sketches feel pulled from a reporter’s notepad, emphasizing the documentary aspect, with a bit of Roz Chast–like line-art shakiness, hinting at McKenzie’s inner vision.
VERDICT Staid but kind, this first graphic memoir from McKenzie, who also writes comics as Emix Regulus, celebrates and mourns a meaningful friendship with quiet narrative confidence.
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