We are approaching the end of the year so it’s time people make a statement like this about everything they read, watch, and listen to, usually within a top five, ten, or twenty but I’ll just keep it simple and say plainly what is rather obvious to me reflecting on the year: Zoe Thorogood’s It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth is the best comic of the year.
I went thru most of the year thinking I’d go with Dandadan, the manga by Yukinobu Tatsu which is just so consistently kinetic and fun and always has a panel or two, or seven, that seems inspired to awe-inspiring in the context of a weekly manga.
I don’t dislike Shonen manga (indeed I love a handful of them still) tho typically they aren’t usually my favorite mangas but I felt Dandadan had distinguished itself enough and had that new car smell that had me slanted toward when usually I’m more slanted toward work like whatever the new Inio Asano or Tillie Walden comic is.
I read Thorogood’s The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott which came out in 2020 and I liked it very much but I thought it was a little undercooked which struck me as odd because this was my first exposure to Thorogood’s work. What this revealed to me was that before I even finished the process of completing my initial exposure to her wit I had already developed an expectation of her work.
It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth has proven me correct in assigning such ambitions to her.
I’m not here to break down and analyze this comic or Zoe. That would be redundant to this exercise. Unlike a workout, however, for someone used to a static existence, this is an exercise in exhilaration even as Zoe takes us to very real depths, describable sometimes only in imagination and fiction, often where truth resides most free.
Tumult when alone, invisible where the most people can see you, yet we all are the center of our own universes, trying to carve out our fiefdoms in concert with our surroundings and other lives, and it’s glorious to see because Zoe has that pen. The art is incredible, she changes style and genre, as we all do at times navigating life and I couldn’t escape a question while reading this… is this comic the answer to what if some of my all-time favorite comics had meaning? It’s like being a fan of cartoons and then watching Spirited Away or Only Yesterday. But not just in emotional substance. It’s also cool. Zoe has style. Her flourishes are exciting. This is still fun comics. Zoe is beautiful and she left some of that on the page, a powerful glimmer even in undecided and precarious times.
This is an excellent comic of escape and confrontation, of dreams and nightmares, of harsh truths and reality, and meta to science fiction.
Zoe has a lot to share but something I focused on was in the summary of the comic itself. This comic, full of life as it is, an adventure and horror looking for fifth and sixth walls to break free from is not a codex on her life. It’s six months. For some of us 6 months, a couple of weeks, hell even a day or the next 30 minutes is a full-blown epic fantasy. This is every day and armed with art she fights in her own version of a never-ending real life dungeon crawl.
I do not know Zoe Thorogood. I am not saying reading this puts me any closer to truly doing so which is a trap I think we can fall too brazenly into with works like this and desiring to have something smart to say about it but what I do know, what this text tells me, is that Zoe has entered that zone of cartoonists that her work, like a new Ishiguro novel, a Wong Kar Wai film, or a Jaime comic, is no longer subject to base decisions regarding buy or see. Zoe’s next joints are an automatic buy and forever to be judged against her catalog.
From the center of the earth to the top of the game and on the top shelf. I wrote more briefly about Zoe Thorogood’s It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth upon revisiting it.