There’s a lot to like in Wilkins’ reading of — and struggling with — the book, but I especially appreciated the following paragraph and its contained anecdote:
…abstract comics work by negating our standard concept of comics, by saying ‘whatever you think comics are, this is not that.’ We have to spend a lot of time thinking about what The Last Story is not before thinking about what it is. I showed the book to my daughter, Sophie, who at 13 is pretty savvy when it comes to comics and art. Her response was, ‘It’s pretty and everything, but why is it in a book? I can see a page hanging on someone’s wall, but I don’t get why it’s in a book.’ This reaction shows that she has some expectations of what a book should contain and that this is not it. It also identifiesThe Last Story with fine art, something one would hang on a wall. Sophie identifies here an issue of register or context: The Last Story makes us do a double take when we think about it as a comic, or indeed, as a book.
The last story is obviously meant to stir up the reader’s preconceptions about a good many things, and it’s great to see that two generations of Wilkinses did their double takes reading it 🙂
I recommend you swing over to either version of the review for the full text (Comics Grid | Winnower), there are some really keen observations and criticisms! Of course, if you haven’t already, I really think you should buy the book direct from this site.
The elder Wilkins finishes off —
Clearly there has to be some negotiation between the creator or publisher’s idea of a comic and the reader or consumer’s idea of a comic: a Venn diagram where there is an overlap. To my mind this negotiation is the ‘subject’ of When the Last Story is Told. Every page invites an argument and a question. In that light, the book is not only comics, but a pretty good book of any sort.