I was out of the comic book and graphic novel reviewing game, I told myself. It was where I had earned my chops and cut my teeth, but my time was up, I thought. Don’t get me wrong, few things will ever hold a place in my heart quite the way comics do, that hallowed antechamber will be theirs until my heart itself stops beating, sure, of course, but reviewing? Well, I thought I’d hung up my pen for good.
Then though, I read something that made my reviewer’s brain twitch, something I needed to talk and write and shout about so as many people as possible could see it, because it needs to be seen. I found my muse, I unlocked that creaky door to that antechamber and unleashed hell on a Google Doc to talk to you all about Everything Body by Ro Daniels, because it made me want to do this again.
Everything Body is nothing short of a modern masterpiece, but then again that can also be said of its creator, Ro Daniels. Started and completed during a world-altering pandemic (you know the one, right?) and the culmination of a Masters degree in Creative Writing, Everything Body strikes chords that are deeply personal and quietly universal.
An exploration, examination, and excavation of, quite literally, everything body, this graphic novel plumbs the depths of the messiness of the human experience in a singular way. Part memoir, part graphic novel, part essay, part vignette of the everyday, Everything Body feels like raw catharsis on paper. Daniels navigates the topics of body dysmorphia, nostalgia, self-destructive behaviour, and critical literature with an almost intimidating ease. Above simple illustration you will find analysis of the human psyche, among leaves you find poetry, among pain you find hope. With whispers of Barking by Lucy Sullivan and Disorder by Erika Price (both of which are must-reads if you haven’t checked them out already), Everything Body possesses an openness and honesty that are as refreshing as they are gut-wrenching.
Despite its origins, Everything Body doesn’t read as an academic submission. Academia often carries the cross on its back of seriousness, coldness, pretension, exclusion…but there is none of that to be found here. Even within the pages on which Daniels reflects upon academia itself, there is no distance created between author and reader – if anything, you’re pulled closer, like when a friend whispers an anecdote in your ear so you can best enjoy the story they are about to tell. Daniels has a knack for closing that distance, for pulling you in to whisper, for letting you in on the joke, for being that friend that slaps your leg when you are both laughing too hard at something. It might be the easy use of conversational language, it might be the drawings of boobs and periods, it might be the sum of all its parts, but this graphic novel feels like an emblematic piece of creativity from the crucible of the past couple of years. Everything Body feels salient and timeless, it feels intimate and frank – it asks, simply, how to be, knowing full well that this is a question to which there is no universal answer – only those deeply personal ones. Daniels knows this, and shows us that we can learn to know it, too.
Rarely does anything unify us as much as pain or love, and with page upon reflective page, Daniels shows us theirs so that we may be brought together by it, sewn up with the wire they hand-cut with pliers to decorate the pages of Everything Body. It’s incredibly selfless, really. It’s viscerally and uncomfortably beautiful. It’s like nothing I have read in a long time, and it’s definitely something you should read as soon as possible. You won’t just know Ro Daniels better by the end of it, but you’ll know yourself better, too.
Everything Body is currently seeking a home in publishing. For any enquiries or for more information on Everything Body, please contact Ro Daniels directly – you can find them on Twitter here.
To find out more about Ro Daniels’ work, visit rodaniels.com