Author: Sylvie-Anne “Zviane” Ménard (translated from French by Helge Dascher)
Publish Date: October 2016
Publisher: Pow Pow Press
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-2924049341
Additional info: Medical Topics/Triggers: depression, suicide occurrence, mental breakdown, mental health
by Kevin Wolf
This is a different type of review for me. Since the author uses second person (“you”) throughout for the narrator, I will do the same in writing this review; but please realize this review isn’t about “you” it’s about the protagonist who’s labeled “you” in this graphic medicine work. You’re meant to see or feel the protagonist’s depression, and don’t read this review or Going Under if you fear being triggered by depression or mention of suicide. The mental health and suicide crisis hotline is 988 in the United States and Canada; and 999, 111 (out of hours, NHS) or national suicide prevention hotline (0800 689 5652) in the United Kingdom.
Going Under by Zviane lets the reader see depression from the inside with no clear resolution. Going Under doesn’t detail medical treatments, instead it shows the lonely bleakness of depression. To reinforce emptiness, faces remain featureless, except mouths and only a nose to hold up glasses. Going Under might require the reader to come up for air by setting this graphic medicine work aside for a time—though it is a very fast read—or helping the reader seek out a mental health care provider, friends, family, working out issues, and hope.
This black and white stark graphic novel begins with air bubbles and over several pages the narrator tells—in part—the reader-empathizer/protagonist, “…around you, the colours stutter … it smells like water … that’s because—you don’t know it yet—you’re about to go under …and you won’t surface for … a long[,] long time. [8 – 10].” You studied music, bored at your job in front of a computer screen, when you prefer piano playing or musical research. You take doctor-ordered months off from work after a mental breakdown, only to return unsatisfied. After five months you have become functional; less sleepless and bedridden; eating a bit better; and around other people again, attending a piano concert. Others might think you’re healthy, but you know better.
You’ll write about brief acquaintance’s futures (e.g., talking to “Anne” after watching a piano concert, you’ll write that “She’ll die of lung cancer at the age of 57. She’s been a chain-smoker since she was 11 and she’ll never have managed to quit. ” You smoke cigarettes but expect to die of something else. You studied music in school, now book concerts; though you wanted to do research. Random others hold out for a hopeful future, such as an infant who’ll “…teach botany and become a famous researcher. ” Playing the piano provides you with some comfort.
Zviane won the Joe Shuster[i] award in 2014. Zviane was the 2011 Winner of the Bédéis Causa – Album of the Year, and nominated for both the Prix Bédélys – Album of the Year – Québec and Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Cover Artist. The Prix Bédélys Awards are given at the Montreal Comic Arts Festival.
[i] Shuster, the original artist/creator—along with the writer Jerry Siegel—of Superman and Zviane were/are Canadians, as is this award. The Joe Shuster Awards began in 2005 by the Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards Association.