The Berlin-based cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen’s new book...is a dazzling and disorienting collection ... Schrauwen artfully weaves himself into and out of the narratives ... These matter-of-fact retellings require a suspension of disbelief, which is made easier by the author’s earnest, guileless voice ... The crude black-and-white style of the first story belies what blossoms by the last—a neon-colored future that is robust, puzzling, and convincing ... Details hint at the idea that the book itself is an artifact, either from or for the future, and there’s a suggestion of contact with another dimension. By the final page, it’s the reader who has been abducted, by the cartoonist, captivated by witnessing time and space made malleable in Schrauwen’s hands.
[Schrauwen's] latest...is a slim but potent volume of linked and mangled autofictions, with delirious color chords you only find in dreams ... things slide toward gibbering insanity until Schrauwen concludes with a deadpan tribute to his art form ... everything seems up for grabs, from sexuality and physics to the rules of storytelling itself ... says one interstellar explorer ... 'The audience, wherever, whoever, and whenever it is, will be captivated by my space adventure story.' What nerve! And yet it’s true.
It's cold and rejecting, with rigid compositions like some sort of third-world safety manual. It's giddy and uncontrolled, with blobby figures engaging wantonly in random acts of pleasure. It's schematic, with a mass-produced feel. It bubbles with images of sexuality, procreation and growth. You could say all these things about Parallel Lives, Olivier Schrauwen's mischievous and mystifying new graphic novel, and you'd still only be telling part of the story ... These stories toy unsettlingly with a lot of things...particularly sex ... they have a lot of sex, and it's depicted explicitly. These encounters are rather shocking amid Schrauwen's minimalist geometries ... Schrauwen's vision isn't of a bleak future, but of a bland one—which turns out to be much creepier. The smooth, touchless quality of Schrauwen's drawings is disquieting, too ... His wit is particularly apparent in the different ways he draws people. Most of the time, his figures aren't exactly cartoony and aren't exactly realistic, either. Their sketchy lines give them a pathetic quality even when they're happily 'leisuring.' It's amazing how anxiety-producing it is to be confronted, page after page, with unrelatable people ... Schrauwen encapsulates oppositions, experiments with new ways of seeing and confounds as much as he intrigues. As he plays with ideas about the future, it's the reader who's his real toy.