Strangely enough, the only name that came to my mind after finishing Equinoxes–the staggeringly good new graphic novel by Cyril Pedrosa–was that of Robert Altman. The idea of having multiple story lines that intersect with each other is a common storytelling device; but often, the interplay of coincidence and fate comes off as ponderous, cheap, and entirely unrealistic. The guiding thread is too exposed, the hand of the author is overbearing, disbelief cannot be suspended. Only someone like Altman can make such a rigid framework seem organic and unlabored.
Yet this is precisely what Pedrosa accomplishes with his Equinoxes. The novel is contructed in four segments–one for each season–and begins with Autumn, where we encounter the principal characters that we will follow throughout the book. A divorced orthodontist, his teenage daughter, an aging Communist, a newly-appointed minister, a lost and drifting thirty-something…When the book opens, these characters are all in the process of grappling with life and its many problems. As the arc of the book unfolds, we watch them as they gradually come to terms with themselves, as they learn to accept the disappointments and failures that surround them and their loved ones, and as they try to continue onward despite their past troubles. Pedrosa weaves these lives together with dizzying skill, leaving the reader oblivious to the impressively complex architecture of the work.
The graphic novel form itself is of an exceedingly intricate nature. The fusion and delicate balance between text, illustration, narrative, and characterization require an alchemy of which few have the knowledge or the skill. This is a rare BD where everything comes together, where the story flows as quickly as the images, and where the ending only leads back to second readings.
Equinoxes, a graphic novel by Cyril Pedrosa, translated from the French by Joe Johnson, (NBM Publishing)