Teddy Edwards

PANEL ZERO #5

A tale of witchcraft and relationships set in Alberta’s backwoods

My Favourite Girl That I Never See
Written and painted by Courtney Løberg

By J Bardyla

After several forays into short-form comics, Edmonton artist Courtney Løberg has published her first graphic novel through Canadian publisher ChiGraphic. My Favourite Girl That I Never See provided me two distinct experiences: first introducing me to the world of witchcraft and second renewing my appreciation for painted comics, especially ones created in watercolours. After watching Courtney crafting the book during her tenure as Happy Harbor Comics’ (now Wonderland) 2018 artist-in-residence, I was very curious how the painted pages would translate into printed ones.

Courtney’s excellent artwork displays a consistency many artists will admire—a tricky feat considering her chosen medium. Most comic colouring is digital these days. Working with a physical rather than virtual palette presents a set of artistic challenges Courtney is more than able to conquer, an especially impressive feat considering watercolours’ unforgiving nature.

Such work requires a more self-assured hand than might otherwise be necessary in the digital age, but its physicality enhances the story of young, self-exiled witch Ori. As she struggles to come to terms with a lost friendship, Ori finds a new one in the form of an unexpected mentor, a nurturing rural pastor named Gideon.

Interior art from “My Favourite Girl That I Never See” by Courtney Løberg.

Set in Northern Alberta’s hills, forests, and swamps, My Favourite Girl brings out the wilderness’ lush beauty even as sinister markings slowly appear in the landscape. By the time Ori learns the full meaning of the symbols and clues Løberg skillfully weaves into her characters’ environment, it’s already too late.

While unraveling the mystery of what’s really happening in her new home, Ori battles personal demons stemming from a recent, apparently failed, relationship. An accidental encounter brings some clarity to the situation even as it adds to the growing chaos. Only quick thinking can avert catastrophe.

While Courtney’s book doesn’t impart all the occult secrets she knows, it does a great job of fostering reader interest in witchcraft and its practitioners’ views of it, both good or ill. The poetic quality of the book’s text element is a different beast from the more prosaic phrasing of most current North American mainstream comics. People like me—unused to dialogue that’s more musical than technical—will be rewarded by repeated readings. Careful attention to the narrative’s symbolism, as well as the images’ overt visual meaning, will add to an already rich experience.

Occasionally redundant words or pictures can be found in some panels, and while I personally found the story’s resolution a little abrupt, it does bring things to a satisfying conclusion. Overall, Courtney’s work is of high quality and a refreshing change from standard comic fare. The beauty of comics is the medium’s ability to showcase a creator’s artistic spirit and intent in a widely accessible mass medium. While useful guidelines on constructing comics narratives are available if you look for them, My Favourite Girl does not adhere to constraints beyond those of Courtney’s own design. The result is not just an enjoyable tale; it’s an exploration and celebration of two of the author’s passions in comics form.

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