Paul Rainey’s ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ Is Mind-Bogglingly Brilliant Mundanity
by Richard Bruton
Paul Rainey’s Why Don’t You Love Me? is out right now from Drawn & Quarterly and it’s a book that will definitely feature on so many best of year lists – and here I’m going to tell you (again) why that is.
Now, I already told you all about Why Don’t You Love Me as part of the semi-regular and increasingly infrequent Webcomic Weekly – right here.
This is indicative of what I had to say…
“It’s a long work, but it’s just so damn good, brilliant in its execution, guaranteed to leave you wondering… who are these people? what the hell is going on? what was that thing in the news? how come it all just switched? And so on and so on… intriguing, complex, fascinating, and absolutely spellbinding.
Why Don’t You Love Me? is a truly wonderful read. It goes places you just don’t expect, it keeps you reading, wondering just what possible twist Rainey can pull off. And then, when he does it, things have gotten so strange that you just accept it straight off the bat – brilliant, brilliant, brilliant work.” Richard Bruton – Comicon – Feb 2022
However, that Webcomic Weekly review came out in February 2022 and although it might have been something you saw at the time and enjoyed, maybe even made a mental note to look out for the book when it comes out, if your memory’s anything like mine, you might have forgotten about it.
And Why Don’t You Love Me? is so damn good that I just won’t let you forget about it.
So, with no apologies, here’s a lot of what I wrote back in February 2022 when I was reading Why Don’t You Love Me? as Paul was putting it up online episode by episode. But right now you lucky folks have the chance to buy what looks like a beautifully put together hardback collection from D&Q.
But before I give you a re-hash of what I said, here’s what a certain Neil Gaiman has to say on the book jacket…
“When I began to read WDYLM I thought it read like any number of slightly surrealistic slightly vapid early-2000s stories that were basically the cartoonist’s way of telling you they hated everyone and everything. And then it came into focus and it wasn’t that thing at all.
And then it came into focus again, uplifting and heartbreaking and (a word that I use sparingly) relevant. The kind of story, leading to a last panel that’s all pain and joy and delivers the whole thing.
What a masterwork. To understand all is to forgive all.” – Neil Gaiman
And here’s some of what I had to say in that Webcomic Weekly…
“It’s all about our nice little surburban couple, Claire and Mark, and their two kids. They’re dealing with all the normal modern life things, the troubles with parenting, things with schools, work, their relationship.
Except that’s not true. It’s far from a normal little family unit. Claire’s obviously depressed, retreating into the bottle, and Mark’s obviously got his own problems – forgetting the kids’ names being only the start of it.”
So, not exactly what you’d call a normal life, is it? And that’s how it continues, a bewildering descent into something, although we’re really not sure what that something is, not yet. For now we simply have to go along with it all and enjoy the strange delights Rainey lays out for us….
There’s such a brilliance with how Rainey sets it all up – no huge revelations await you, certainly not in the first half of the book, just that deliciously slow and steady unfolding of an unsettling feeling in front of you as Rainey details their hum-drum lives, and does it so very well.
In fact, even without what happens in the latter half of the book to turn everything on its head, there’s a great delight in just puzzling your way through the way Rainey documents Claire and Mark’s lives, getting the dialogue just so perfectly spot on, showing us just how normal couples act in normal situations and normal lives while all the time undermining that feeling by showing us just those little indicators that this is everything but normal, all the little inconsistencies and reveals that show us that something very different is happening here.
So, we move on in their lives, Mark increasingly confused and frustrated, Claire increasingly losing a battle with the black dog of depression…
Now, as I did with that Webcomic Weekly, I’m absolutely not spoilering anything – well, at least no more than plenty of other reviews have. And all of those reviews mirror everything I’ve said about Why Don’t You Love Me? – it’s definitely going to end the year appearing on so many of the best of 2023 lists.
Now, as for where it all twists and puts everything upside down and amazes you with what Rainey’s managed to pull off here, I’ll just give you the final bits from that Webcomic Weekly…
“It’s quite magnificent to see just how Rainey spins it all out, with an unsettling feel creeping in early on and simply refusing to stop nagging at you. There’s the constant feeling that something could go very, very, very wrong.
And then it does…”
“Again, it’s another masterstroke. Something bad happens. Something big and bad enough to make the news. But we don’t know what it was. Well, we sort of find out, many, many many episodes later. But by then, we’re so deep into the strangeness that it just passes over us almost completely, such is the scale of what we’re learning by this point.
And then there’s this…”
After that? Well, everything changes. Again. Quite magnificently. But that’s for you to find out and be as blown away as I was with the sheer masterful way it’s all done.
Paul Rainey’s been making excellent comics for decades now. I’ve followed pretty much all that he’s done and I’m so pleased to see one of Britain’s great comic makers finally getting the acclaim he richly deserves here with Why Don’t You Love Me?
It’s on general release right now from Drawn & Quarterly. That means you should be able to get hold of it from any comic shop and any book shop. It absolutely is your essential purchase for the month. Any month.
Why Don’t You Love Me?by Paul B. Rainey
Published by Drawn & Quarterly