If the latest volume in the long-running, semi-autobiographical Paul series by the Quebecer cartoonist Michel Rabagliati is by far the saddest of these wonderful books, it’s also much the better for it. No one writes, or draws, the nerdish white male quite as Rabagliati does, but in this volume, as his titular hero finds himself adrift in middle age, there’s a special richness: a melancholy that has its perfect expression in his monochrome pages. A story of loneliness and loss, it could hardly have arrived at a better moment. Who knew that I would find Paul’s daily dread so soothing? ... His mother, though… At the heart of this book is a fine portrait of a stoical, reserved and sometimes rather difficult woman who lives alone in a retirement flat ... blackly funny, whether our narrator is obsessing over the typeface of street signs, or giving yet another talk to bored students at a school ... there are moments of solace, too.
... an exacting chronicle of the everyday, a work of big-hearted humor, and a memoir that’s as much about the potential of the future as it is about the bittersweetness of the past ... broad and accommodating in its minutiae, big enough to contain a diverse readership. Though it may help to be a cantankerous old white male cartoonist before picking up this book, you don’t necessarily have to be to enjoy it ... I found myself not only relating to Paul but reflecting on shibboleths between generations ... In its careful attention to detail and thorough examination of the challenges and triumphs of being human, it’s a book that offers an opportunity for growth, not just for Paul but for the reader sympathetic to his situation. As a chronicle of a life, Paul at Home is a success.
With bold lines, cartoonish faces, and springy movements, Rabagliati's artwork is almost at odds with the comic's melancholy. But perhaps it is precisely this contrast that makes Paul at Home such a delight to read. Amidst Paul's loneliness and disillusionment, we also get glimpses of his wit and humor ... Scenes that should cause distress...instead make us laugh at the absurdity ... brimming with moments of heartbreak, but through its humor and honesty, it also speaks to our sense of hope.
... a masterclass in comics storytelling, rich in humor and pathos, and capturing the sheer breadth of life from the mundane day-to-day to the major stuff like parenthood, family, home, and career. Also loneliness, depression, illness, and death. That may sound like heavy going, but it’s really not. The book is a testament to Rabagliati’s great storytelling skills and deft draughtsmanship, and this makes for an immersive, sensitive, entertaining read ... This beautifully crafted narrative leaves its hero on a perfect note, and me eager to see what’s next in store for Paul/Rabagliati. While I’m also planning to go back and enjoy some past adventures, Paul at Home stands on its own as a remarkable achievement.
... emotional recognition was a recurring theme for me while reading this ... The themes of a fiftysomething cartoonist going through layers of loss...seemed perversely compelling to this fiftysomething writer ... Rabagliati’s work paints life in all its shades of sadness, small moment by small moment, until the cumulative sorrow seems ready to burst. Paul at Home is a melancholy poem about the inevitable loss that life is; those small triggering memories that we accumulate and cherish and that crush us at the same time.
It’s a primal scream and a hateful screed against 21st– century culture. It’s one of the angriest and saddest graphic novels I’ve ever read, and feels all the more tragic because Rabagliati’s signature strengths—his detailed cartooning, his playful digressions, his skill at constructing narratives around flash-forwards and repeated motifs—rewrite the optimism of the earlier books ... Do I recommend Paul at Home? Absolutely. As usual, Rabagliati’s aesthetic virtues are many: few cartoonists draw backgrounds and urban scenes better, and I continue to love the narrative digressions that define his unique point of view ... It’s an act of courage for Rabagliati to channel his painful 2012-13 desolation into his art ... in showing himself unshaven, bitter, and isolated, Rabagliati has unwittingly captured the COVID-era zeitgeist. We all deserve better lives right now.
To a degree, this chapter of the Paul series feels meandering, almost directionless. Paul sulks around with nothing, in particular, driving him, nowhere to go, not much to do ... If Paul seems lost, the book does, too. But that’s no accident. This quality of Paul At Home reflects the reality of going somewhere without being able to see it as so many people experience it ... the brilliance of Paul lies not in the exceptional quality of the life portrayed, but in the normality and therefore accessibility and familiarity. Rabagliati has a keen instinct when it comes to parsing out the key moments of human life that are common to most of us, regardless of what kind of life we are leading, and he understands the conflicts become deeper and the meaning of our responses richer as we grapple with them as older people because we’ve reached a horrible moment where the end might still be far away, but it’s definitely in sight now.
... readers will be able to pick this one up without having prior knowledge. Rabagliati knows how to create a character that most everyone will find relatable, and his greatly detailed illustrations are equally absorbing, while also having a retro, newspaper-funnies feel. Those already acquainted with Paul will enjoy this new installment, while those unfamiliar and looking for a calm and easygoing read will welcome having a new series to delve into. The unassuming nature of this series is central to its appeal.
Rabagliati draws the exurban Quebec setting with panache, lavishing attention on vintage architecture and signage, and his coolly abstracted characters have an art deco gloss ... The trope of the misanthropic crank cartoonist is all too familiar, and it’s a wrench to see Paul fall prey as he ages; indeed, long gone is the Paul of earlier works, a neurotic but more openhearted teenager. The rare moments of grace center on his relationship with his mother, a flinty woman who faces her own mortality without fear. Though there’s enough to hook newcomers, this volume is best enjoyed by readers who have been following the characters through the years.