September 2005

Sarah Vance

nonfiction

Spaniel Rage by Vanessa Davis

Spaniel Rage is Sex and the City without movie stars and expensive designer shoes. There aren't any hairdressers standing just to one side of the movie set to make sure that the main characters always have that fresh from the salon look in Vanessa Davis's world and there certainly aren't any in her graphic novel. Spaniel Rage is the real story of being a young woman in contemporary New York City. The one where you have more bad hair days than good, and there is no Mr. Big to break your heart. In fact in this story you spend a great deal of your free time worrying that there may never be a Mr. Big in your life. And that's a lot closer to reality than Sex and the City ever got. And that's the really good thing about Spaniel Rage: it's all about telling the truth.

Written and drawn by Vanessa Davis from her own journal entries, Spaniel Rage is a wonderful graphic novel that gives the reader hope that this writer/artist will have more to say in the future. The drawings are from her sketchbook between 2003 and 2004, and reading Spaniel Rage is a little bit like peeking into the private journal of your best friend or older sister. Davis seems to have no inhibitions about letting everyone in the world into the private universe of her secret thoughts, hopes and dreams. That's what makes Spaniel Rage so intriguing. Davis doesn't hide any of her thoughts, even if some of the subjects she covers would probably make her mother a little squeamish. It is this intimacy, a risk that Davis is so willing to take, that makes Spaniel Rage almost more page-turning than action-packed Japanese manga.

The drawings are all pencil sketches, which seems to match perfectly with the casual manner in which Davis's thoughts are presented in a journal format. Davis obsesses over her hair, her clothes and wonders if she'll ever fall in love. She takes online tests to see if she'd be a good girlfriend. She sleeps all day, and stays up all night doing absolutely nothing. She is an All-American girl, the Marlo Thomas for the 21st Century.

Spaniel Rage feels like the prequel to an epic coming-of-age story. It makes you wonder if the people who saw a short film called THX1138 made by George Lucas in film school, knew that he would someday introduce the world to a little space opera called Star Wars. In particular, Spaniel Rage has the same kind of sensibility as Craig Thompson's Blankets, a six hundred-page coming of age graphic novel, that reveals the same kind of secrets about growing up and falling in love in the Midwest that Davis does about her life in New York City. Hopefully, Davis will have a longer and even more revealing graphic novel to share with her fans soon.

Spaniel Rage by Vanessa Davis
Buenaventura Press
ISBN: 0976684802
120 Pages