Review: My Brain Hurts Vol. 2

Artist(s): Liz Baillie.

In the second and last part of My Brain Hurts, Liz Baillie1 continues the tale of Kate and Joey. At the end of the previous part, Joey was just coming out of a coma after a gay bashing, while Kate had quarreled with her girlfriend and was being pursued by Nathan, one of the boys who’d bashed Joey. The whole cast leads an unstable life that’s often complicated by their sexual identity (most of the kids depicted are either queer or bi); or more exactly, by their trying to find a way to live this identity, since both Kate and Joey are fine with not being straight.

Alongside Nathan, the “token” straight guy of the series, Baillie also introduces a few other secondary characters, such as a couple of girlfriends of Kate, as well as a boyfriend for Joey, whom he meets at an elite school where he’s enrolled for a time (he’s a very intelligent boy, but his intelligence doesn’t serve him in his daily life).

Joey can't even trust Kate anymore.

Liz Baillie’s art has come a long way since the beginning of the series, which took her six years to complete. It now presents fully-realized characters and backgrounds, with an expressiveness that a lot of more seasoned cartoonists might envy her.

All those young people make what we, as adults, might call mistakes, but the author never lectures her characters or her audience, she only chronicles those lives, showing the consequences of those mistakes but also leaving doors open. That being said, it’s rather heartbreaking to see a character like Joey making mistake after mistake because he can’t trust anybody—too many people have betrayed him time and again, to the point where he doesn’t trust his own friends anymore. And the further you read, the more you feel that Joey isn’t going to end up with a good life. But the whole point of the series is to show how young people survive adolescence and build varied lives for themselves.
That point is made with the coda to the book, where we learn what kind of adult life each character is living, a poignant study in non-conformity and paths chosen or ignored.
My Brain Hurts has become one of the best queer-centered series I’ve read, and I hope a lot of readers will discover it.

  1. You can follow Liz Baillie’s work on her website, where you can read previews of My Brain Hurts and buy it signed by the author. The book is also available from Amazon.

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