I was actually putting off reviewing this title. I read it once. Then I read it again. By now, I’ve actually read it several times. Second Thoughts is a brief slice-of-life comic. In it, we meet two couples, both at difficult times in their relationships. Andrew isn’t as confident as he once was in the commitment he made to his girlfriend, Sofia. And Jess is very focused on writing her book, so Chloe’s interruptions during work time grow more aggravating. There’s almost no connective tissue to these couples, save the chance meeting Andrew and Jess have in an airport. They exchange a few sentences, and go their separate ways. Back to their individual, personal struggles.
Second Thoughts seems ardent in preserving the quiet moments of turmoil that fill the gaps between milestones couples usually celebrate. We see dates out to restaurants, but more of the food being eaten than of the significant other’s face. In conversation, pleasantries aren’t exchanged, but short, insinuating barbs that suggest unfaithfulness. So I’m in an odd place. I don’t know if this was an experience that I liked or I didn’t. Which is usually where I start when I’m forming reviews. It’s also why I’ve read Second Thoughts so many times. Prescient in its title, this comic knew I would struggle with my perception of it.
I have resolved, however, that Second Thoughts is worth my time and confusion. It’s doubtlessly a well-executed comic. Done completely in black and white, it makes a lot of strong artistic choices. One of my favorites is the point-of-view Asker uses. Most often, the camera angle is that of a first-person perspective. So we can see the look on Sofia’s face when Andrew accosts her about something in the same moment Andrew does. Or perhaps, when the couples are having better times, we are seeing what it looks like when they are just waking up: a pair of feet at the end of a bed.
Since this is a book about relationships, the content would suffer heavily without great use of expression. Asker fills this role nicely. All of the art is realistic, but uses few enough lines that just an upturned eyebrow can change a whole expression. And while the entirety of the composition would stay intact if this wasn’t included, it is always nice to see an artist who still hand-letters.
One other thing Second Thoughts does well is pace its story. Since we have a few cold transitions in a very short space, in lesser hands the narrative could have gotten quite confusing. Instead, Asker sets the parallel stories up nicely. And by pitting each couple in comparison to the other, you gain deeper insight to their different troubles.
It’s almost surreal how quiet Second Thoughts is when its content is typically treated more emotionally. Even with its thoughtful pacing, Second Thoughts slips in some expletives and some nudity, so this is definitely aimed for the adult reader. Presumably, adults are also the only ones who can understand the quiet aching we watch these characters go through. While it’s not a fun sensation, it assuredly evokes an internal feeling unlike a lot of comic experiences. If that sounds like something you look for in your reading material, I’d recommend giving Second Thoughts a look.
by Niklas Asker
Top Shelf Productions, 2009