Justin at Poopsheet Foundation reviews Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will.
“One of the more surprising finds in Look Straight Ahead is the idea that the introspective self-doubt of the artist bears some similarity to the chaos of mental illness. That’s not really the main crux of the narrative though. It centers on Jeremy Knowles, a kid whose experiences move from whimsical, to ethereal, and even to nightmarish. Jeremy’s tale is about the cumulative effect of marginalization to the psyche. It deals directly with his eroding sense of identity under the pressures of his sickness. Take all that, plus an initially “off” parental approach (I enjoyed the quick shots of his father finally attempting to educate himself about mental illness), some incidents of bullying at an indifferent school, along with a dash of a weak social support network, and it’s a cocktail recipe for disaster. Visually, I was very impressed with Will’s style; there’s the raw penciling ability of a draftsman like Terry Moore, coupled with the deep social awareness of a creator like Nate Powell. Those approaches lead us to believe that kids are perhaps a little more self-aware than we give them credit for. “Look Straight Ahead” may ultimately refer to the titular notion of keeping one’s eyes on the prize, acknowledging life as an endurance trial, recognizing the natural cycle of ups and downs, and rolling with them in the most present and communicative fashion we’re capable of mustering. Jeremy’s sense of control and capacity for flexibility are often at odds, interspersed with fleeting moments of clarity, brought to life with Will’s dynamic line, until a sense of balance can be achieved for the protagonist. Her visual blend depicts some color, texture-rich patterns, ornate designs, decisions to sometimes eschew panel borders, or even embrace them, as myriad tools in the artistic toolbox. One of the best examples of this intent for me was when Jeremy is trying to remember, to recreate memories through the fog of medication. As he attempts to make order of that chaos, panels appear as hastily taped together scraps. It’s a fairly brilliant display of what Elaine M. Will is capable of. While the ending may feel slightly abrupt, the overall terrific experience is capped by pin-ups from such talents as Jeff Lemire and Riley Rossmo, once indie creators, also prominent now in the mainstream. Grade A.”