There’s a good reason why Jordan Crane’s amazing new graphic novel, a gorgeous-looking book that comes with rounded corners and thick ivory paper, looks a bit like an expensive journal. Keeping Two is indeed a kind of diary, its narrative comprised almost entirely of the innermost thoughts of its two characters. Just as in a diary, nothing much seems to happen for pages at a time and yet everything does ... isn’t a straightforward read. Crane, an award-winning cartoonist, is ambitious for his medium and his narrative shifts constantly between past and present, fantasy and reality, with a speed that can be confusing; every page – every frame – is bathed in a bright, leafy green and this sometimes makes it hard to read characters’ emotions (after a few hundred pages, it’s pretty tiring on the eye too). But it also repays patience, its powerful climax at once deeply connected to, and utterly at odds with, the frustrating detours that precede it. If it is, at moments, about claustrophobia and loss, its larger message has to do with human connection: how we long for it and yet how easily we take it for granted.
... transcendent ... a gorgeous and unforgettable ending ... The fresh absence of loved ones is shown with dotted outline ghosts, resulting in many poignant and affecting scenes. Like a unique dialect, it takes some time to grow accustomed to the storytelling style, but once its mechanisms are understood, it results in intense, profound communication ... wenty years passed between the publication of the first part of this story and this complete edition. Deceptive in its complexity and rewarding of multiple readings, Keeping Two is a romantic graphic novel with deep emotional impact.
Crane exhibits virtuosic mastery of sequential narrative and page design, seamlessly shifting through time and space and layers of reality to capture his protagonist’s increasingly frantic stream of consciousness. The effect is occasionally nerve-wracking, but brilliantly effective; tales so interior rarely deliver such visceral impact ... Crane’s magnum opus is a stylistically adventurous evocation of how fear and grief create barriers to genuine intimacy. Not to be missed.
With spare text and many wordless panels, the illustrations carry the story forward. The drawings are simple, but packed with content. Many of the wordless panels, particularly those depicting difficult scenarios, add to the uneasiness readers feel as they draw their own conclusions. This is a story so rich and complex that it will require a second, and possibly third, reading. Readers should be alerted to sensitive material found inside, including stillbirth and suicidal ideation.
... pays very strict attention to form. Over the course of 300-plus pages, Crane rarely strays from a simple six-panel grid, arranging the action in neat squares that move down and across the page with an almost mesmeric energy and speed. With this structure, a rhythm builds, as does an understanding between cartoonist and reader, so that when Crane begins to blur the lines between past and present, reality and memory, truth and imagination, you lean forward and hold on for one of the most memorable comics-driven rides of the year ... Crane uses vibrant, hypnotic color, with bright greens suggesting life, growth and rebirth but also illness, nausea and unease. As the story swings between these two tonal poles, Crane’s intense focus on form and composition allows him to transition seamlessly between perspectives, often within the space of a single panel. The boyfriend’s household chore becomes his girlfriend’s reading life, becomes the life of the story she’s paging through and then back again—and the reader is never lost in these shifts. It all feels like part of an ever-fluctuating meditation on life, loss, love and all the states of uncertainty, panic and longing in between ... Beautifully realized and assembled, Keeping Two is a remarkable work and one of the year’s best graphic novels.
... every diamond, sparkle, and burst is placed on the page perfectly ... plagued by intrusive thoughts, the narrative being interrupted and obfuscated by reverie, the reader’s ability to perceive the moment at times pushed out by a tempest of noisy marks ... filled with comics conceits that shouldn’t work but do ... Crane has created a work of incredible suffering. Pain and fear and love. It is a complicated story, stories within stories that reflect upon each other, of a couple, lousy driving, fighting, making up. Reading a book and fearing the worst. Acting on it ... The entire book is meticulously plotted, magnificently structured storytelling. An immersive read where we get to feel the anxiety of the couple we observe. One that acknowledges our thoughts, intangible, have as much power over us as anything concrete. What we read and what we believe and what we think is as much a part of being alive as the air we breathe, the people we know, the place each of us calls home ... Crane leaves the form familiar so that the reader can fall down the rabbit hole of the content. What you want the story to be is crucial to what it ultimately is. Lose track of where the line between before and after was drawn. You make it what you want to make it, like you were told, you have the power to save them once the story is over. Thank you. Alright.
More or less, your enjoyment of Jordan Crane’s Keeping Two depends on whether or not you think it is a compelling depiction of domestic life; whether you think that the central male characters in the comic love their partners ... The instances of death that do not pertain to Will, Connie, Daniel, or Claire are used to contextualize the dotted line device as a thematic gesture, and to fortify the narrative tension spurred by the aforementioned portent: that death is a constant fixture, that the death of a loved one is carried around with us, and that life without someone we love is untenable, haunted ... The depiction of all of the instances in which these women die is quite grotesque. It is a constant, page-by-page reality of Keeping Two that women die violently. Not only is it violent that women die, or that the ways in which women die are violent, but also that their death is inherently violent to their male partners, who are left without them ... I did not care for em>Keeping Two. I found its six-panel grids and its monochromatic (green and black) presentation dull. It uninspiringly depicts the ins and outs of life in a partnership with tense mundanity that offers little to no spiritual or personal fulfillment. It is well-drawn, to be sure. The cartooning is clear, precise, and accurate to its emotional delivery. The most clever gesture is the intermixing of fantasy and reality, but it sacrifices bold notions by clearly articulating which is which. It seems like the book relies on the reader being flippant enough with their eyes to not notice that the wavy borders are fantasy or flashback and the firm ones are capital R reality. I would have appreciated a bit more ambiguity, since the central tension of whether or not Connie or Claire are actually dead is dispelled by these borders. The climactic psychedelic sequence gets tired after a few pages, despite being a welcome break at the outset ... More pressing is the depiction of women and unhoused people. The only personhood any women have in this comic depends on whether they’re living or dead, being killed or killing themselves. Unhoused people are depicted as cruel monsters of fate that exist only to be a negative fantasy for Will, to kill him or to kill his wife ... Nothing conceptually or aesthetically difficult is going on here ... The trouble is that this is all Keeping Two has to say about relationships; you fight with each other, you are frequently uncomfortable in each other’s presence, but when you think one of you might die then you are then allowed to tap into your heretofore inaccessible sentimental organs such that the ultimate sacrifice of love can be made. For me, that statement is about as outdated as Crane's cartooning style, which leaves little room for ambiguity or interpretation, inspiration for life, or even the veracity of death. It is a comprehensively one-note performance premised on a dated phobia.
The work is engrossing not merely because the reader wonders what will happen to these characters and what decisions they will make about how to live with the recognition of the mortality of those they love, but also because the work’s open-ended nature encourages the reader to think about their own views on mortality and life. The overall idea of the book concerns our taking daily life for granted, as if it will always exist in the way it does, ignoring the reality that we and those around us are all mortal. As with all great literature, it forces us to think about our lives and how we wish to live. And there’s no way to take notes on that; we just have to experience it.
Crane lets tiny moments swell into a flood of emotion in his most accomplished and moving work yet ... the more fragmented the plot becomes, the stronger the emotional thread binding the disparate elements grows, winding toward an unexpectedly transcendent climax. Crane’s rounded characters inhabit carefully drawn suburban settings, drenched in nighttime shadows and colored in soft shades of green. The juxtaposition of simply drawn images and geometric patterns recall the style of Seth but with a warmer, sentimental touch. This a gently stunning meditation on loss, absence, and connection.