Do you think it’s hard to find comics that you can relate to on a human scale? Hopefully, that’s not the case but, for a lot of readers out there, it may seem confusing. Well, the comics medium offers such a vast and wide assortment of possibilities. Consider the story of Wilhelmina Huckstep, “Will” for short, who is a talented and beautiful young woman who has one Achilles’ heel. She’s sort of afraid of her own shadow. More specifically, she’s afraid of the dark.
Set in Charlottesville, Virginia, this comic could be considered rather subversive in its own gentle way. It’s a story about women finding their way in the world. One particular woman, Will, is far stronger than she realizes. What she needs to figure out is what she needs from her inner strength. She’s too busy doing things, making things, following her own unique sense of purpose, to stop and sort out her feelings. Will’s journey, her awakening, makes this a truly remarkable read that will appeal to any reader.
Those shadows do get in the way of Will’s progress. What are they all about? A big hint: Will has some serious unresolved issues she needs to deal with. For now, she acts much like Emma, in Jane Austen, dispensing helpful advice for her peers to follow. Will knows how to dish it out but it will take some doing for her to clean her own house of the road blocks impeding her path. And to drive home the point, in a clever way, Will is very much attracted to light. It’s her special way of avoiding the dark. And it has led to her becoming an accomplished creator of a long line of decorative lamps.
Artist and writer Laura Lee Gulledge has a keen sensitivity to the challenges of youth. With Will, and her friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese, she gives us champions for an unplugged life. It’s Will’s interactions with others, in real time, in person, that go a long way to helping her see things more clearly. It’s all thanks to Hurricane Whitney that Will and her old and new friends get a rare chance to bond. Just as everyone is coming together for an arts festival, the storm damage triggers a black out that is going to linger for a few days. It will be a game changer in a lot of ways: inspire intimate conversations and stir up some soul-searching.
Gulledge masterfully renders accessible characters and gives us a pleasing immersive reading experience. With her disarming style, she can tackle familiar issues like social media in a refreshing way. And she can certainly express the turmoil that Will is going through with wonderful visual metaphor.