This week’s Webcomics Wednesday is a bit of a departure from my usual routine. I often cover plot-driven, long-form stories that unfold over months or years, but there’s a whole world of beautiful short-form comics out there, and today I’m showcasing a particularly great one. Tillie Walden’s “Sweet and Unknown” is a poetic, moving meditation on longing and love, and while you could easily read the words it in a trice, her enchanting ink-and-watercolor artwork communicates the bulk of the mood.
“You” is a giant, statuesque woman, looming through the trees with an outstretched hand, and while the narrator is uneasy, she climbs on anyway, and they travel the world. The narrator perches on the woman’s shoulder, nestles in her cupped hand, leans against the gentle slope of her foot. It’s an arresting visual metaphor for comfort and intimacy, but also the vast distances between two people. And, though the world from up high is enchanting, the narrator sometimes misses the ground.
Walden encapsulates the terror and wonder of falling in love, from the stunning feeling of seeing the world from another’s perspective to the danger of what a stumble could mean. Here, that stumble is literally dangerous, given the heights at which the narrator finds herself, and there’s a subtle sense of unease, as if she’s getting too close to the edge of something fatal.
Walden telegraphs most of that emotional complexity through her artwork and the snapshot-like moments the two women spend together. With minimal lines and a single color, she renders deeply meaningful gestures and expressions. It’s worth mentioning some of her other comics, here, since that effective combination—few words and evocative artwork—is at play elsewhere. “Summer Is the Worst,” for instance, uses the giant-person-in-tiny-landscape device to communicate how summer heat makes everything feel too close.
There’s a selection of short comics on a variety of themes, all of them great, available to read for free on Walden’s website now, and while she doesn’t have a regular update schedule, it’s worth it to keep on eye out for more from her. She’s an impressive talent, and there’s sure to be plenty of similarly gorgeous work from her to come.