Dealing with pregnancy, child-rearing, art-making, mental illness, and an MS diagnosis, the parts of Chlorine Gardens’ sum sound heavy, but Keiler Roberts’ gift is the deft drollness in which she presents life’s darker moments.
Keiler Roberts lives in a deadpan universe ruled by a bipolar God. Her graphic memoir, Chlorine Gardens, is a fractured chronicle of self-deprecatingly hilarious yet harrowingly moving vignettes from the edge of her private yet oh-so-familiar abyss ... he effects are subtle, but subtle is as good as it gets in Roberts' universe. She posits a bipolar God to explain how 'inconsistently great and terrible his creations are', and then counters that volatility with her own deadpan consistency—though with just enough hint of a Mona Lisa smile to betray the love and joy found just beneath the starkly drawn surface of all things.
Roberts continues to mine both quotidian and existential moments in another deeply satisfying collection of simultaneously deadpan and poignant autobiographical comics, delineated in slightly awkward but appealing black-and-white drawings. Roberts depicts moments of funny domestic life with her husband, Scott; their young daughter, Xia; their dog, Crooky; and her quirky but always supportive parents ... Her spare but evocative line drawings, with their generous use of white space, work in tandem with the direct and detached tone of her narratives, allowing readers to fill in the emotional spaces between visual pauses. Roberts is a unique and nuanced storyteller, and this proves her best, richest book yet.
On the face of things, little has changed in Keiler Roberts' work from her earliest days doing her Powdered Milk minicomics. Using an immediate, expressive, naturalistic style, Roberts emphasizes small moments in her life and tells them in brief, anecdotal bites. There's not much in the way of an overarching, personal narrative. She tells stories about her perfectly ordinary and reasonably comfortable life in the suburbs as part of a family of cartoonists, her young daughter, and her friends. Roberts also dives back into her memories to pluck out the occasional narrative. Throughout it all, Roberts maintains a comedic tone that is bone-dry.