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Slice-of-life series ‘Almost Summer’ worth a binge read

Almost Summer (Vol. 1-4)
Sophie Bédard, Pow Pow Press, powpowpress.com, $22.95 ea, four volumes

It’s a webcomic fan’s dream to find a completed series to binge read from start to finish. No waiting for weekly updates, no refreshing your browser over and over again. Which is why I was excited when I got my hands on all four printed volumes of Sophie Bédard’s Almost Summer — freshly translated to English with the last volume just released by Pow Pow Press this past fall.

Set in small-town Quebec, this slice-of-life comic follows a group of teens through their last two years in high school.

The series centres around best friends and total opposites, Emily and Michelle. Emily is mistrustful and reserved, and lives alone with her unloving, alcoholic mother. The bubbly and friendly Michelle is a downright hedonist with poor impulse control. They put each other down regularly, so I often found myself wondering: why are they even friends? The best answer I could come up with was the one Emily offers near the beginning: “We’re just used to being around each other. She sort of showed up in my life one day and kinda… never really left.” Good enough, I guess. The dynamic wasn’t exactly a deal-breaker, but it’s certainly a head-scratcher.

I was surprised to learn Bédard started the French webcomic when she was 19 back in 1999, considering the quality of the first volume. That being said, it was a real highlight watching Bédard’s storytelling and characterization evolve over the course of four volumes. Michelle is a hedonist to the end, but the way Emily grows more trusting and relaxed within herself was heartening to read. Bédard weaves in new characters — a favourite of mine is good guy Anthony — and draws in new depth, which made the last volume my favourite.

Judging by Bédard’s online portfolio (sbedard.com) she’s got some exciting projects up her sleeve that feature a more diverse lineup of characters and subjects. I’d love to see more of her work translated into English.

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