Monday, October 28, 2019

Minis: Age of Elves #4

The fourth issue of Colin Lidston's slice-of-life story of four role-playing gamer friends circa 2000 once again focuses on Sarah, the sole girl in the group. In the last issue, it became clear to her that she was tired of doing all of the emotional labor in the group. She was tired of Evan's benders and of Bram's tantrums when people went outside of the Rules of the group. Indeed, it is ironic that groups of outcasts who can't seem to fall in step with social mores often tend to seek out subcultures with even more rigidly-defined rules of expected behavior. As per usual, Lidston favors a smudgy, slightly grotesque line that refuses to idealize its figures but also doesn't treat them as objects of derision. In particular, he excels at drawing people with larger body types in a way that makes sense, not as the object of a punchline.

In this issue, Sarah struck out on her own, hanging out with an older couple she had met in an earlier issue named Catherine and Alan. They gave her validation with regard to her interest in illustration and costume design in a way she didn't always get from her friends; more importantly, they represented new friends in an environment seemingly rife for making them at a gaming convention. Of course, her friends found it difficult to actually meet new people, mediating these relationships through the act of gaming itself, through drinking, or simply not interacting with anyone new. Sarah is the only one in the group looking to expand her horizons, if not reinvent themselves.

She learns how to make chainmail from Catherine. She's invited to go LARPing, though she declines. She attends an afterparty and has a good time. In particular, she has a conversation with Catherine that's telling. Catherine notes that she started playing D&D in the 1980s, when it was a fad for a while. At that time in 2000, with the fad long over, Catherine noted that the game now "belonged to us", meaning gamers. Catherine states confidently, "This is real life", but Sarah is unsure. That doubt is magnified when both Catherine and Alan make a pass at her as a couple, introducing a sexual world so far beyond Sarah's experience that she simply leaves as quickly as possible. It's another level of unreality, making her return to her friends a welcome experience. As imperfect and rigid as they are, they are what she knows. The question that remains is whether she will remain content with those imperfections in the long run or if she will address them. One issue remains in this surprisingly provocative series, one that offers up a number of subcultural critiques while still remaining respectful of those subcultures. It will be interesting to see if Sarah's story ends in resolution or resignation.

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