One of the titles that I pulled from the spreadsheet was Jellaby by Kean Soo. Jellaby himself was very cute, and there were aspects to the art that reminded me of Bill Watterson, so I checked out the second book as well.
That one had me crying helplessly and emotionally on edge, where the tears kept coming back at odd moments. It slew me.
I am going to recount what did it, and thus there are major spoilers following for Jellaby: Monster in the City (Jellaby #2).
First off, Jellaby is a lost monster found by Portia, a young girl recently transplanted outside Toronto with her mother. Her father is absent, though she does not seem to know why or where. Through Jellaby she befriends another student, Jason. In an effort to locate a way home for Jellaby, they head to the city on Halloween. The first book ends with them on the way.
Once in Toronto, at the Exhibition, a masked magician leads Jason and Jellaby (Portia has been distracted by a false image of her father) to another lost monster, Xolotl. Xolotl's story is much worse.
A flashback shows a crying baby Xolotl lying in the snow. A boy comes along and picks her up, and she clings to him. They spend time together, focused around a lake (perhaps Lake Ontario), but as he gets older he takes off with a girl and doesn't look back, as a devastated Xolotl watches.
While a talking bird is explaining to Portia about Xolotl's abandonment and temper, there are more images of a larger but still not fully grown Xolotl hearing a boy crying, coming with open arms, and then looking angry when the boy is scared. Does the dropped truck mean he ran away, or is he the skull we see in the passageway?
The Xolotl that Jason and Jellaby meet with is much larger, and still looking for a new companion. Initially kind, the undercurrent of menace quickly becomes grave danger. Portia comes to rescue her friends, and they get out, but there is a lot of destruction along the way. The last we see of Xolotl is the chamber collapsing around her while the masked magician (who has encouraged the others to flee) holds her.
That probably sounds sad, but it's much worse with pictures.
It left me a wreck, and not understanding why I was such a wreck. I suppose a main problem was over-empathizing with the villain, but it hurt so much. Xolotl was a lost monster too, and she had been hurt, and she also had someone who loved her, so why was she still looking for someone else? Why did her pain have to turn into anger and harm?
There are some things that I can guess increased the impact. The way baby Xolotl clung to the first boy reminded me of our kitten. I imagine Lilly Belle's heart-rending mews might be how the baby monster's cries sounded.
Of course, it's been a while, but that's how Ashley's cries sounded too. Three of our cats were found on the street, and even the fourth had previous owners, though they gave her to a shelter. I have a soft spot for animals anyway, and I know they feel abandonment. They can heal from it, to an extent, but it's not a given. We have had cats and dogs who never completely got over being given up. Maybe some of them just needed more time, but there was a love and loyalty that was deeply injured. We have taken in a lot of rescues, and I am sensitive to that.
My reaction still felt disproportionate, like I had scratched open a deep well of pain that I hadn't known was there.
I do know the pain of loneliness. I thought I had been doing better, but perhaps I was fooling myself. If that were the case, I would hope there would be something more concrete: you still have this, or need to do this.
I have had some other thoughts, and I don't know if any of them are right or if it is all of the above.
This is a hard time in my life. For newcomers, I am dealing with unemployment and my mother's dementia, and they pull me in two different directions. Maybe it's easier to devastate me now than it would be at other times; I am using up a lot of my inner resources for outer things.
This is a hard time in the world. My blogging about comics in no way indicates that I am not aware of or concerned about current events. There are things I intend to write, and I was trying to get to, but it didn't feel right yet. I needed to take some time to write about comics and television (next week).
I guess it's catharsis, and maybe that's why I need to spend some time writing about entertainment. Art helps us understand things and relate to things. If there is something hurting inside me that I am not ready to understand, there is a good chance that art will be helpful when I am.
But some days it can mess you up.