Sure Becky Cloonan is best known as an artist and her art is, hands down, some of my favorite being produced in comics today. But Becky Cloonan also knows how to write. Her 2012 self-published book The Mire is as much a treat for the story it tells through Cloonan's writing, as it is a treat for the eyes through her art. It is a success in its intersection between idea and execution – and the idea in this book, the story it tells, its writing, is a tale that among other things is about storytelling itself.
After all, here's a book that opens on the first page with the "SKRITT" of ink on paper, words being formed, a story, perhaps, being told. It demands that you pay attention to the act of writing. It draws attention to itself, to its words, through this conceit. And through this Cloonan, the writer, stands before you. She is not afraid of you trespassing through her swamp, wandering the maze of her castle, or pulling back the curtains of her canopy bed. See, she wants to tell you a story.
Cloonan has tight rein over the tale she tells through her pacing and her reveals. The Mire may be "no place for a daydreaming boy," but it sure is a playground for craftsmanship, for imagining, for storytelling, and for writing. As with her previous book, Wolves, Cloonan writes a novel in 22 pages of black and white panels thick with her ink and her intent. As with Wolves, in The Mire Cloonan plays with time seamlessly, layering her narrative with shifts from the present to the future – a future looking at the past – a past filled with secrets that are slowly revealed. And really, isn't that the heart of storytelling, this revelation of secrets? Cloonan's secrets are hidden behind thick curtains, enclosed in envelopes sealed with a personal insignia, and dreamed of in the shadows of a fecund Mire. It's all there in the writing.
What is all this, then, if not great storytelling? What is all this, then, if not some of the best writing of 2012?