Fran GN – Jim Woodring

5 out of 5

Holy crackerjack meringue – what a journey.  “Continuing and preceding Congress of the Animals,” says the cover; does that give you a sense of what to expect?

No, no it cannot.  But know that this is perhaps Frank’s most linear, followable journey yet, though that doesn’t mean we’re far from Unifactor / Woodring symbolism or any of the general surrealism (and humor, and emotionality) that’s marked the creators works.  However, instead of witnessing what may be parable, Fran instead seems to take us down the cyclical experience of relationship breakups and make-ups, sharing its story via character interactions (Frank and Fran) that should seem familiar to anyone who’s been through whichever part of that cycle.  Fran (the book) is incredibly affecting, and in parts frightening, showing us, more clearly, how Frank’s “innocent” mean-spiritedness expresses itself when it’s fueled by pangs of jealousy and selfishness and not an effect borne of his hokey-dokey ignorance.  Just as Congress ended us at a point questioning if there’d actually been any growth post a tumultuous journey, Fran poses the eponymous character (presumably “her” name, anyway) as the enlightened opposite of Frank, moving and looking forward; when the duo split and she goes walkabout with Frank using Pupshaw’s hilariously visualized tracking skills to follow, Frank’s destructiveness is highlighted in how different the pairs’ journeys are, leaving us – as promised – preceding Congress of the Animals events once again, questioning not only the lack of growth, but the lack of anything: movement; reason.

It’s haunting stuff.  Thankfully Pupshaw and Pushpaw are there to exchange knowing glances and fall down for comedic effect when needed.