If you were to pick up Michael DeForge’s First Year Healthy struck by a wave of naive curiosity, you’d be making a grave mistake. Pink and sweet-looking though it may be, it couldn’t be further from a children’s story: rather, the newest publication by the Toronto-based cartoonist is a bizarre and mysterious tale about mental health, magic cats and very big hair.
The story’s protagonist is a young woman recently released from hospital following an “episode,” who meets a boy and proceeds to have a series of creepy and unexplained experiences which delicately balance on the thin line between the real and imagined as her mental well-being begins to dwindle. We as readers, however, have no idea which is which, and as such we’re obliged to run at full pelt towards her strange destiny beside her. Michael’s illustration is sumptuous in its portrayal of this downwards turn, with all of its odd colour palettes, strange flora and fauna, and the decidedly creepy depiction of the characters she meets. Oh, it’s good. Weird and good.