Written by Melissa Jane Osborne
Art by Veronica Fish
Published by Papercutz
Release Date: July 18, 2017

To live would be an awfully big adventure.

From its first page, The Wendy Project is a heartwrenching story that teeters between fantasy and grief. Even though the nature of the story is not clear as it proceeds, it is still engaging on different planes, moving in and out from vague images to the emotive detail of pivotal moments.

Wendy as a character is the container that houses our understanding and in many ways we learn through and with her. Ultimately, what we end up getting is a profoundly complicated tale of a teenager trying her best to manage one of the most disruptive emotional experiences anyone can encounter.

Melissa Jane Osborne was wise to choose a full graphic novel to tell Wendy’s story. Experiencing the fullness of this story in one long, fell swoop gives readers a chance to fully experience and unpack all of the feelings extant between each cover. While Wendy has most of the spotlight, Osborne uses John to explore another part of grief and pain.

His being nonverbal after the disappearance of his brother is an intense and undeniably realistic response for someone as young as he is, reflecting the internalizing or somatic manner through which early adolescents respond to grief compared to Wendy’s ability and burden of managing slightly more enhanced cognitive development.

Grief is never neatly packaged; it is an experience that constantly challenges us. As Kahlil Gibran spoke, “pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses our understanding,” and this sentiment is firmly captured in our contact with this sensation through grief. For Wendy, reality itself has broken as she struggles to hold onto something and someone she held dear. Her journey through this process is starkly real, and Osborne takes care to explore the difficulties of such an important loss at this developmental period.

Veronica Fish alternates between childlike images with blocky posture and deeply emotional detail. It’s almost as if the reader moves through the ebb and flow of feelings, some moments comparatively light and others heartbreaking and poignant. With color, Fish brings in flashes of fantasy through bright hues deliberately placed to indicate significance and symbolism. Characters become bathed in different shades, symbols that represent Wendy’s perception of them as she works to make sense of her experiences.

Toward the end of the graphic novel, Fish breathes new life into the story, fully immersing the character and the reader into a sort of dreamscape that allows Wendy to make a pivotal change for herself. Despite the heavy atmosphere on each page, Fish simultaneously lets the appropriate feelings manifest while staying true to the larger narrative.

The Wendy Project spoke to me as a human, as a counselor, and as a reader. In my own trek through adulthood, I’ve recognized the depth through which grief takes us and how it changes our perception of the world. Osborne and Fish both work together to give faces, lines, colors, and a story that has the capacity to capture the universality of this emotional experience and the particular ways it pushes us to redefine how we see the world.

This comic is an excellent exploration of something we cannot always fully know, but that affects us in varying ways. The Wendy Project is an excellent addition to any library and could be a vital tool in helping children, adolescents, and adults learn to process their own difficult emotions.

The Verdict: 10/10


Related posts