PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Paul Moves Out

Stefan Robak

A quiet, unpretentious book.

Paul Moves Out

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Contributors: Michel Rabagliati (Artist)
Price: $12.97
Writer: Michel Rabagliati
Item Type: Comic
Length: 120
Publication Date: 2005-05

Some books are clearly autobiographical, even if that fact isn't printed anywhere within the book. In the hardcover comic Paul Moves Out, writer/artist Michel Rabagliati is clearly the title character. There's no two ways about it, they are one in the same. Perhaps not all of the events in the book happened, or if they did, their sequence and dialogue within the scenes was changed for the sake of clarity. After, who can remember the wording of every conversation they've had. But there are some things that you just know in your heart of hearts to be true just by reading, and in this case I know that Michel is Paul and Paul is Michel.

Paul Moves Out, a follow-up to Paul Has a Summer Job, is a series of slice-of-life tales dealing with the life of Paul, who we see as both an art school student and as a graphic designer. It follows some important moments in Paul's life spanning his twenties as he becomes fascinated with a new teacher in his art class that exposes him to new ideas, meets the girl who he'll one day marry, moves out of his parents' home, and baby-sits the neighbors' kids for a few days, among other occurrences and events. And I know it is true when I say that Paul's experiences are based on Michel's own. The experiences themselves are, in many cases, archetypical life experiences: the teacher who inspires you, the first meeting with the woman who seems to perfectly understand you, your first experience as a (replacement) parental figure. Still, the way in which Michel Rabagliati presents these scenes makes them feel not like fictional moments constructed by a writer but rather like real moments recreated in comic form.

But readers will see that these are more than just scenes from a man's life as Michel captures authentic human emotion. We share Paul's frustrations, confusions, and joys, as well as feelings that words can't quite capture. This is why I know that Michel Rabagliati is the titular Paul: everything that Paul feels through the course of the book feels honest, gently moving and true without feeling melodramatic or manipulative. Frankly, I'm pretty easy to move emotionally, but I can tell the difference between when sentiment is constructed for the sake of the story and when they are taken from personal experience.

There's something about the emotions Michel Rabagliati presents in this book that are more intangible than the ones found in fiction. When Paul's English teacher, Jean-Louis Desrosiers, is coming on to him, he's scared and finds himself in an uncomfortable position. Later, Paul wonders if he led him on by mistake and remembers points in their friendship where his actions may have been misinterpreted. When Paul later finds out that after he rejected Desrosiers he spent the night with some other guy, calling the sex an act of hygiene rather than one of love, Paul doesn't know quite how to feel: he's insulted that perhaps the mentor he respects may have viewed him as just a means to pleasure and he's sort of jealous, but he also feels only platonic feelings for his teacher and he just doesn't know quite what to feel or exactly what he is feeling. The emotions aren't simple and though words like "upset" or "confused" wouldn't be incorrect, but those words really don't do justice to what Paul is going through.

The art of Paul Moves Out has the kind of simple and iconic look one expects to find in an indie book. The art style is eye-catching and fitting considering that we get to see Paul/Michel learning so much more about graphic design and presentation than he ever had before. The smooth simplicity of the character designs helps convey the characters moods clearly despite (or because of) the complexity of what they're feeling. The pitch-perfect pacing and the gentle stories show that Michel Rabagliati can use sequential art to tell a truly personal story that wouldn't quite work in any other medium. My only complaint is that the stories themselves don't really have a strong or common theme to hold them together, and the books seems to end rather abruptly. They are good stories, but it doesn't feel entirely cohesive, as the book works more as just a random collection of events.

Whenever I read a book published by Drawn & Quarterly, my faith is renewed in the independent comics' scene. Paul Moves Out is no exception. A quiet, unpretentious book, Paul Moves Out can easily be enjoyed by anyone and touches on those beautifully complex emotions that everyone feels but has difficulty putting into words. Paul and Michel are one in the same, and it is hard to imagine that this is not the case, but whether he is or isn't, Michel (and he is, I know it) he can still capture complexity of simple emotions better than anyone.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.