By Katie Skelly
Pub: Sparkplug Books
The important thing about Katie Skelly’s Nurse Nurse is that it is fast. Terrifyingly quick. You start out with floating in space on the first day of nurse training and before you breathe twice you’ve ricocheted around the inner solar system and are entering orbit of the eighth and final chapter. Skelly, if anything, is efficient.
I read Nurse Nurse as each chapter was serialized. Over the past few years I have gotten quite familiar with Nurse Gemma, the continually flustered protagonist of Nurse Nurse. The plot of this story is best summed up with Gemma’s outburst “I just want to do my job!”
She can’t because just about everybody she meets is a selfish idiot. From a pushy ex-boyfriend to a dismissive supervising doctor, to space pirates, Gemma meets a wonderful succession of creeps who are interested in basically everything besides helping people.
Lots of working folks should be able to relate to this.
Nurse Nurse is a comic book.
In addition to writing the story, Skelly drew every bit of it. Her art directly channels old shoujo manga. It is inextricably intertwined with her writing style. The lightning-fast pace at which one reads these pages is indicative of Skelly understanding pop manga on a fundamental and structural level, not a superficial level.
Pop manga is meant to read quickly yet viscerally. Commonly, Japanese folks are said to read their manga on commuter trains as swiftly as you’d read today’s paper–and with as much sentimentality. I have heard of large comic magazines abandoned on the seats of a train after having been perused briefly. Skelly’s chapters read as though she is expecting you to read them on the subway and then toss them out. To that end, I have literally read each issue of Nurse Nurse on the New York City subway AND I read the entire collected novel on the same subway.
Skelly draws her forms and her gestures big. She prefers to show a character physically exploring a world instead of narrating to the reader what that world is. She keeps her designs simple and graphically flat. I am referring not only to her character and technology designs but also her page designs. Subtle actions are writ large in this book, calling attention to nods, head turns, underhanded sneakery and eye rolls.
Skelly’s visual sophistication comes into full view for the unconvinced when she expertly turns her simple forms into sweeping patterns such as the Venusian cityscape or the swarm of simple butterflies.