Roadside tells a story in which “two former friends reunite for a strange and dreamy drive to see the roadside attractions that fascinate them both,” as its blurb explains. The characters climb on roadside attractions, drive through a forest at night, and frankly discuss how their relationship has changed. There’s some tension, but the lightness and highly sensorial imagery of these pages soften the largely mild moments of conflict. There’s an energy to the dialogue throughout, with the conversation moving quickly from one topic to another, before ultimately lingering on the one that explains the motivation for the road trip. With the rapid-fire pace of conversation and time shifts, it is a little difficult to keep up, but there’s a natural authenticity that rolls the reader forward.
Wenting Li’s pen line is extremely thin, adding a sort of airiness to their artwork. This is enhanced by the use of fills in various gray tones and negative space, the sheer range of these conveying a variety of colours, settings, and time of day despite being printed in grayscale. Dark structures are shadowed by cotton gray outlines. The darkness of the car transitions into that of the night sky, which then unfolds into a view of a forest road. Layouts change by the page, without a consistent narrative structure.
Having previously reviewed a comic of Li’s, I was excited to read Roadside and see how her work has developed. It’s certainly not a disappointment, and demonstrates a clear evolution as a unique visual storyteller.