Monday, January 20, 2014

Polina - Bastien Vivès

Polina is an intimate character study of Polina Oulinov who wants to become a professional ballet dancer. The comic starts off with a very young Polina trying to get into Bojinsky Academy to learn ballet professionally. Polina makes it and from there starts a journey of a self-discovery and coming-of-age. Polina also takes an in-depth look at being a ballet and the emotional confidence and intelligence at becoming a ballet dancer.

Polina took me by surprise, I had no expectations coming in and by the time I was done reading it I was absolutely blown away. Polina takes place in Russia (mostly) and we get to see some of it, but it's a comic that's mostly interested in the inner-space of its characters. Polina can become very claustrophobic read because the inner spaces that Vivès navigates us through. Not only claustrophobic but downright stressful and depressing. But all is not negativity, Polina revels in those small moments or insights that change a person and who they view themselves and others.

One thing that caught me off guard is how time passes in Polina. Vivès doesn't rely on telling us that time has passed--actually, this is used only twice towards the end--but allowing the reader to find out that time has passed. Vivès's subtly changes Polina and the people around her by making them slightly taller, changing their facial structure and physical changes that occur during puberty. It's up to us to recognize those changes and internalize that time has passed.  These changes are so seamlessly integrated into the story that it never breaks the flow of the story and you internalize it almost instantly; I'm amazed how Vivès was able to pull this off.

Vivès simple but elegant line takes this comic to another level not seen in most comics.Since Polina deals with ballet, you need a cartoonist that is able to fully express it in all its motions and emotions; Vivès does this flawlessly. Vivès has the eye for motion and being able to express that in the least minimal lines while making it look elegant and full of motion. When Vivès not drawing characters in motion, he's able to express the inner emotions and conflicts within his characters and between with just with lines; it's breathtaking to see.
Vivès does an amazing job creating Polina, the characters around her and the world she inhabits and making them fully complex and alive. Polina is available in English but only in the UK. The best way to get this without the heavy import prices is through Kindle. You'll have to go through Amazon UK and change you kindle address for the UK. It'll only take few or more minutes but after you done, you can purchase Polina. It may sound like a lot to do, but it isn't and this comic is more than worth it.


  1. Or go through BD with free worldwide shipping....ès/9780224096935