Left Empty: Book One
Writer: Alan King
Artist: Jamie Vayda
Publisher: Birdcage Bottom Books
Birdcage Bottom Books is a publication which truly embraces the classic, underground nature of the indie comics community. In their organization they produce a variety of off the beaten path, often comedic comics. Today's book however, is not funny but it is very moving and quite the powerful read with an insanely strong team behind it which form a true story that transcends the typical autobiographical comics mold. Let's talk about it!
Left Empty is an autobiographical story of loss. After the death of Krystal King, Alan is having a hard time coping. Everything reminds him of what has happened and now so much of the memories appear tragic. Throughout the story we see bits and pieces of the illness which took Krystal as well as how Alan reacted and how it effected all aspects of his life. Anymore plot details will spoil a remarkable piece of storytelling, so let's go on to what's great about it.
King recounts his experiences with dialogue that makes the reader truly feel things as he provides a story that touches on a subject many people are nervous to discuss or even consider. Those who have been in a serious relationship will feel a pit in their stomach as they get placed in this situation that stings with every line of dialogue. That dialogue is particularly strong as Alan uses his written self to recount the events of Krystal's diagnosis, explaining how unreal it all seemed. What King does here that really hits hard is show a very real look at how so many would react to this situation. The death of a loved one is upsetting and messy and so many other things and in this story we see that full spectrum of emotion, each strongly grounded uses exceptional dialogue. Underneath the sadness of the story is the strong sense of love that the two had for one another, which will bring this powerful story so much closer to home.
Vayda's art has such a unique look. In his other work that can be found in Loud Comix (which he also did with Alan King) we see a far more comedic story through his style. This book not only exhibits his versatility, but also further exemplifies Vayda's skill as a cartoonist. To provide a stronger sense for the beats in this story the artist uses sequential panels that give a good representation of how much life has slowed down as well as a good look at King's body language. It is clear from page one that this is an event that King needed to chronicle, and Vayda worked in such perfect symmetry with him to produce a heartwrenching but nonetheless important autobiographical tale that is tragically beautiful to view.
This is an interesting read for so many reasons. Alan King has put himself out there to tell an important story of loss and healing that is powerfully cartooned by Jamie Vayda. Yes, it is a sad story, but it is also a unique experience and a book that will make you feel such strong emotions, suffice it to say it deserves attention. There is a ton of talent in this book and this is only the first chapter. You can pick up this comic from the Birdcage Bottom Books webstore.
If, Alan King, you find this review in your travels, I'm sorry for your loss.