From the penciled art to his appreciation of the little things in everyday life, the charm of Quebec cartoonist Jimmy Beaulieu’s first translated work lies in its simplicity. Suddenly Something Happened covers a period in the author’s mid-20s when he relocated to Montreal, co-founded the publishing house Mécanique génèrale and broke a long-standing dry spell with women. Along the way, he reflects on music, romance, dysfunctional families and his childhood discovery of comic books. All told in a confessional manner, the tale comes across as neither sad sack nor misanthropic (a common flaw in many autobio comic). Beaulieu’s laid-back personality makes him relatable, both when he’s lamenting his loneliness and confessing his feelings for his girlfriend.
In two road trip tales depicted in the book, Beaulieu’s keen eye for detail is strongest. On a visit to New York City with a friend, Beaulieu attends a Brian Wilson concert. As he watches Wilson, on stage with his damaged voice and tumultuous past behind him, Beaulieu feels renewed hope for his own life. On another trip through the Gaspé Peninsula with his girlfriend, Beaulieu treats the reader to the passing beauty of the landscape and other roadside observations. The trip culminates in a family visit and a hilarious episode involving a cowboy-themed air freshener. Suddenly Something Happened is another strong offering from the Quebec cartooning community. And, while uniquely French-Canadian in setting, the book has a broad appeal for the wide audience it should rightfully attract. (Matthew Daley)
Jimmy Beaulieu, 253 pgs, Conundrum Press, conundrumpress.com, $20