For over 20 years, David Collier has made comics about Canada’s freaks, weirdos, and underdogs. In Chimo, he changes course, dramatizing his own struggle to re-enlist in the Canadian military after hitting 40. His goal is to see active service under the auspices of the Canadian War Artists Program.
What follows is less memoir and more rambling monologue, as Collier offers an affectionate take on the peculiarities of military life. He relates the history of Canada’s war artists, his voyage on the HMCS Toronto as a civilian, and his extended physical fitness regime. The latter is an obsession for Collier, and it’s ironic that his quest to see active duty is put in jeopardy as a result of an injury sustained while navigating an obstacle course during basic training. The story of his recovery transforms this book from a memoir about the author’s military experience into a meditation on mortality.
Collier’s not the greatest draughtsman: he comes across as a messier Joe Sacco, and his figures often look stretched and distorted. But this style adds a kind of humanity to his images. He’s also a bit of a goofball, and he’d be the first to admit it. This is part of Collier’s charm – the biggest fool in his stories is always himself, despite his wish to be “taciturn like a real artist.”
Collier’s eye for the seemingly trivial is his biggest achievement as an artist. He precisely renders all the little things: the postures in which the members of his family sleep or the way his German Shepherd sulks on a boardwalk. By capturing moments like these, Collier successfully imparts to readers his sense of wonder at the world around him.