Boris Makes A Friend
by Katharine Miller
Available at robotofleisure.com
If I haven’t already made myself clear on this point, let me be explicit: I love Boris. Katharine Miller’s bazaar marriage of meme between Cute-Thing and Post-Apocalypse seems tailor made to suit my taste. I deeply enjoyed the first book, citing only small, stylistic complaints as detractors from the tightness of the work. This second volume is more of the same slow, earnest, visual story telling, with a pathos that sits on top of the narrative directing the course of the action. Once again, Boris explores the question of profound solitude, discovering that the difference between freedom and loneliness may only be a mater of perspective.
I wish actually, that I had chosen to review both books together, because from a narative perspective Boris Make A Friend is more effective as a companion piece to The Open House. Both are first act type stories, mainly concerned with building the world, introducing the protagonist, and establishing his struggle. Boris is a service robot, but the home he services has been abandoned so he has nothing to do with his time. He explores the house, has a little fun with the things he finds, there is the looming questions about the end of the world, ect. In a way it seems like rehashing old potatoes, becasue much of this happened in the first book, but that’s sort of the point. I understand Miller’s need to trace over the same material a few times in order to properly establish the philosophical questions that she wants to answer and there is some amusment the re visitation. The most fun part of this second volume, however, is when Boris finally ventures out of his home to discover what the town has to offer.
The books are divided roughly along narrative lines, but most strictly along philosophical ones. Boris and the Open House wondered what a character with no ambition, like our heroic service robot, might do if they were completely free of restrictions. The ponderings in Boris Makes a Friend have more to do with witness. What’s a little robot to do when he has no other against whom to measure his accomplishments? The evolution of the philosophy is quite beautiful.
Stylistically, the two books are nearly identical, but in this second volume Miller’s cartooning has improved significantly. The characters are more comfortably integrated with the environments, and while I miss the gentle schism of the earlier work, it does make for a smoother experience. Panel lay outs have been planed more carefully, so there is both more variety, and more clarity than in the first book. Each picture was successful in communicating its own crisp, singular message, while being equally useful at telling its part of the story. Not once did I have to rescan a page to understand what was going on. This may seem like a fairly basic remark, and it is, but anyone who reads comics know that this kind of clarity is not easy to achieve. I’ve read a lot of large distribution superhero books that didn’t scan as well as Boris Makes a Friend.
If you’re interested in getting acquainted with Boris, I would recommend reading the first two volumes as a unit; maybe with a break for a cup of tea in between. Despite their physical and philosophical separation, narratively they function best as a unit. When one is in the slow, earnest mindset, that caries through those two volumes, the final panel of Makes a Friend becomes quite shocking. I am eagerly anticipating Volume 3 (coming Summer 2011), which I am hoping begins the second act of Miller’s story.