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Joey and Kate

My Brain Hurts Vol. 1

A 128-page book, Microcosm Publishing, 2007.
Available at Amazon.

Category: homophobia, lesbian, slice-of-life.

Author(s): Liz Baillie.

Kate has a hard time

The life of gay & lesbian teenagers has by now been explored in a number of books and films, maybe less in comics. Liz Baillie's series My Brain Hurts offers another perspective on that subject, with her characters Kate and Joey. A girl who's still struggling with her attraction to girls and a boy who's completely at ease with being gay, the two form a strong friendship, which helps them face their daily lives.
This collection of the first five issues of the series shows the evolution of the author's art, from a mini-comics/zine vibe to a solid and expressive style which wouldn't be out of place at Drawn & Quaterly. So, yes, the first pages are a bit crudely drawn, but that's largely and quickly improved, and the earnestness of the work is obvious, right from the beginning.
Liz Baillie doesn't try to sugar-coat her portrayal of her queer, punkish teens: Joey might be comfortable in his gay skin, but he's still not safe from the furor of his father or gay-bashings, and Kate doesn't find it so easy to navigate the treacherous waters of the dating world, which she's only beginning to explore.
Kate is more or less the main character of this series so far, but that could be due more to what happens to Joey than anything else. We'll have to wait for the the second and final book, which will be published at a later date (with the sixth issue of the comics being now out), to know whether Joey will get to be shown living past the consequences of the events from this first half of the series. I hope so, since I found quite realistic and moving the way Kate and her girlfriends were shown.
The first volume of My Brain Hurts is a book I'm going to read again very soon, because Joey and Kate are characters full of life and hopes, despite all the (realistic) hardships they endure.

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