By Michael DeForge. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.
Hardcover, 176 pages, B&W and Colour, 2020.
IN A THOROUGHLY MODERNIZED, CONSTANTLY UPDATING SOCIETY, WHERE CAN TRUE CONNECTION BE FOUND?
The bodies of citizens and the infrastructure surrounding them is constantly updating. People can’t recognize themselves in old pictures, and they wake up in apartments of completely different sizes and shapes. Commuter routes radically differ day to day. The citizens struggle with adaptability as updates happen too quickly, and the changes are far too radical to be intuitive. There is no way to resist—the updates are enacted by a nameless, faceless force.
Familiar Face’s narrator works in the government’s department of complaints, reading through citizens’ reports of the issues they’ve had with the system updates. The job isn’t to fix anything, but rather to be the sole human sounding board, a comfort in a system so decidedly impersonal. These complaints aren’t mere bug reports—they can be anything: existential, petty, just plain heartbreaking.
Michael DeForge’s ability to find the humanity and emotional truth within the outlandish bureaucracy of everyday life is unparalleled. The signatures of DeForge’s work - a vibrant color palette, surreal designs, and self-aware sense of humor - enliven an often-bleak technocratic future. Familiar Face is a masterful and deeply funny exploration of how we define our sense of self, and how we cope when so much of life is out of our control.
Praise for Familiar Face
In Familiar Face, Michael DeForge’s genius brain foreshadows a not-so-distant future where optimization is the ruling dictator. Underneath DeForge’s hyper-coloured, fragmented style and signature deadpan is a prescient mourning for what is lost after the onslaught of updates and upgrades. One of the most compelling works to date by my favourite Canadian writer.Vivek Shraya, author of Death Threat and I’m Afraid of Men
Familiar Face starts off as a funny, visually lush piece of science fiction and takes a thrilling turn into the political, with echoes of the Situationist International.Sophie Yanow, The Guardian Best Books of 2020
In Familiar Face, [DeForge] addresses body image and complaint culture. A brilliant cartoon distortion of who we are.The Scotland Herald Best Graphic Novels of 2020
A searing, surrealist critique of the culture of technological customization, and an ode to love in the face of overwhelming power.Publishers Weekly
Familiar Face imagines a society in which the acceleration of capitalism has reached a feverish peak. In the name of optimization, the world is constantly reshaping itself. Citizens wake each morning in unfamiliar bodies, their features wholly transformed; the map shuffles weekly, sometimes even daily, resulting in inescapable culs-de-sac and sudden dead ends.The Paris Review
With Familiar Face, Michael DeForge accomplishes a unique feat, producing a work that is a functional blend of science fiction and abstract art.Panel Patter
The book is very much a thought experiment about what happens when we reach a point of no return with tech, and what happens to our ability to construct true relationships.Panel Patter, Favourite Comics of 2020
In this future [the] consumer complaint has become everyone’s favourite mode of self-expression. Mourning the loss of her lover, DeForge’s protagonist reads signs, explanations and epiphanies into everything... Come for the consumer satire; stay for the heartache.Simon Ings, The London Times
At first glance, Familiar Face may seem to be set in a far-off dystopia, but the longer you remain in this strange world, the more it begins to feel uncannily familiar, an almost-too-accurate depiction of our world. Yet, for all its disquiet, this was a pleasure to read. Michael DeForge’s elastic, friendly line is full of humour and wistful charm.Ling Ma, author of Severance
[Familiar Face is a] dazzling satire of technology run rampant that doubles as a meditation on the sense of alienation that often grows out of heartbreak.Thomas Batten, Library Journal, Starred Review
Another DeForge classic—tender, depressing, and overflowing with his mind-melting, uber-satisfying surrealist style.Interview Magazine
Deforge’s weird, semi- and completely abstract art really works here with a viewpoint character trying to make sense of such a shifting, confusing cityscape in which people are hard to distinguish from furnishings and whatever is on the street.Graphic Novel Review
In this graphic novel, people search for connection in a society where both bodies and infrastructure are constantly updating. The vibrant colour and surreal design of DeForge’s melancholy love story captures the disorientation felt by the characters living in a fluid world where they have no control.Becky Toyne, The Globe & Mail Winter 2020 Books Preview
If you feel like the ground has shifted under your feet, of late – that the terrain you face is utterly unrecognizable – have I got the book for you.The Globe & Mail
Put simply, the book addresses the rapid and chaotic pace of change, as well as its impact on the lives, hopes, dreams of individuals. Familiar Face is an abstract look at how it feels to be an extant being within that pace of change, and it raises a series of powerful questions that are very much relevant to our times.Comics Bookcase
[In Familiar Face,] DeForge offers a searing indictment of the gig economy and the unrelenting pressures it places on its victims.Booklist