COMIC REVIEW: West of Bathurst by Kari Maaren

It may not strictly count as a book, but I’d buy annuals of West of Bathurst by Kari Maaren.


Image reproduced by kind permission © Kari Maaren.

In essence: West of Bathurst

West of Bathurst is a comic strip that ran from July 2006 until February 2014 with the tale of Marie Dumont and her years spent rediscovering herself at the ‘fictional’ Davies College, Toronto. It deals with mental health issues as Marie struggles with what she believes are hallucinations, while she tries to accept her possible accountability in her parents’ death. It also allows for the possibility of the supernatural in the shape of affable, handsome (and highly mysterious) Casey Mulligan, who might possibly be Satan; and Evil Marie, one of Marie’s hallucinations … or is she? Friendship is a major theme as the post-grad students look after each other while battling with personal and academic problems as well as coping with the surprises of the school year.

Why read it?

It’s funny! And loveable! And beautifully drawn.

The West of Bathurst strip delivers its tale through the cycle of the school year, so there are scenes and events like Orientation Week, the summer barbecue (where it’s traditional that someone gets thrown in the pond) and Elisa and Athar’s Welcome Video that crop up every year at about the same time. Not to mention the college-wide annual murder game. The cycle keeps the feeling going of year-in-year-out college, so you feel like an old hand, or at least part of the Davies family, by the time you’re on its third year.

Even the secondary and minor characters have various quirks, not least Barbara with her soap allergy, her endless paper marking nightmare and Sherlock Holmes obsession. There’s the irrepressibly foolish Baldwin, loyal Rahim, terrifying Frankie, and shy Sara, who is the unexpected (initially) and undisputed Queen of the murder game. The major characters are loveable and pretty well-rounded, and they (mostly) love each other, which makes it hard to put down due to the overwhelming urge to find out what happens next.

It’s been an interesting, fun, and imaginative read, with a well-defined story arc, great characters, and is clearly based on the artist’s post-grad college, Massey, Toronto (the similarities are brilliant, if you look up Massey on Wikipedia after reading WoB).

Will you like it?

What’s not to like? If you love cartoons, and funny characters you can relate to (and I’m talking to the Simpsons generation here), or if you have a sense of the ridiculous, and are willing to accept that some people are permanently trapped in their own world (in this case that of post-grad residency stippled with a bit of crazy), and that that has great story possibilities, then please, go ahead, get reading, because it’s a story worth reading. The only regret is that it isn’t an all-in-one paper book to be dipped into time and again.

Kari has now begun a new strip, called It Never Rains.


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