Review: The Lil Depressed Boy #4

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Review: The Lil Depressed Boy: Supposed To Be There Too #4
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: S. Steven Struble
Art: Sina Grace

After a four month absence, the fourth issue of Lil Depressed Boy: Supposed To Be There Too, Shaun Steven Struble and Sina Grace’s mellow and realistic portrayal of everyday life, returns after we saw Spike open a seemingly important letter and react accordingly in #3. This issue sees Spike introduce LDB to her family to celebrate her birthday with a surprising and vaguely sad outcome, as well as catch up with his buddy Drew while he’s on tour, which provides nice continuity. The consequences of Spike’s mail are also revealed and potentially pose a serious threat to LDB’s happiness.

Compared to previous Lil Depressed Boy outings, #4 contains quite a lot in terms of plot and character development; the events of this issue certainly dictate the future of LDB, his career, Spike’s prospects and their relationship at large. Perhaps it’s because we’re used to fairly timid and uneventful stories, but #4 is positively a white-knuckle ride in comparison. It’s nice meeting Spike’s family, even if they are a little pedestrian aside from an appearance that truly throws a spanner in the works. LDB preparing for the meeting is adorable and expertly endears the reader to him.

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Yes, LDB is sweet and shy and easy to relate to much of the time; sometimes, however, Lil Depressed Boy can feel a little too soft. Maybe it’s because we have grown accustomed to comics full of profanity, violence and sex that more mellow material fails to entertain as fully. But with the almost endearing scratching out of expletives, LBD’s subdued personality and the lack of real drama and events, it sometimes feels slightly slow. On the other hand, this absence of tension and excitement is part of the charm in reading Lil Depressed Boy. Perhaps a middle ground could be met, wherein Struble and Grace keep the indie, mellow feel of the book but make LDB himself a little more ballsy and dynamic.

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Struble’s dialogue continues to be a great tool for character development, especially the use of Spike’s frantic, rushed speech, and allows each character to enjoy a degree of distinct separation. As always, however, the pages of silence are often as telling and endearing as scenes including dialogue. There are silent scenes, for example, in which LDB continues to get ready for the birthday party and adorably practices dialogue he can use for Spike’s family. It’s impressive work on behalf of Struble and Grace managing to engage readers in the mundane and routine, never mind making it so universal and touching. Grace’s art work is as consistent and effective as always; with his bold lines, and extensive colour palette he evokes a grounded-universe in which the story can unfold.

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True, Lil Depressed Boy isn’t a laugh-a-minute, blink-or-you’ll-miss-it romp; the story and our eponymous hero could do with a little more life and vibrancy. But it is an endearing read, as always, there is a cliff-hanger that threatens the very existence of comics’ cutest couple and the naturally funny dialogue ensures that Lil Depressed Boy is as pleasant and enjoyable a read as usual.