Paul Goes Fishing is the fourth volume in Michel Rabagliati’s semi-autobiographical graphic novel series. In the new book, it’s July 1991; Paul is 32, and he’s finally establishing himself in the world. He’s got a steady job, his partner Lucie is pregnant, and they’re off for a two-week vacation in Northern Quebec.
There’s a light, breezy tone throughout Paul Goes Fishing. As Paul has matured, so has Rabagliati’s art. Compared with the previous volume (2005’s Paul Moves Out), the lines are smoother and more refined, and he’s introduced a wide range of grey shades. Storywise, Rabagliati tries something new by focusing less exclusively on Paul and sketching in numerous side stories for the supporting cast. This gives the graphic novel a wider scope, but also a somewhat choppy feel as we jump from character to character, present to past. Paradoxically, the larger cast doesn’t result in a widening of range. Instead of numerous views, it’s a chorus of characters speaking in the same voice as Paul.
Though life is generally good, Paul’s in a sour mood about the world. As such, Paul and his supporting cast do a lot of pontificating. Vacationing fishermen, for example, are missing the point and are engaged in widespread “cheating” through lakes stocked with fish, special lures, and the latest technology. About changes in the graphic arts field, Paul whinges that “almost everything now depends on a goddam computer. We really got screwed.” Still, as bad as things appear, he retains an irrepressible naïveté, and is rarely illustrated without a smile or smirk. Nothing much gets to Paul – it’s all water off a duck’s back.
A sudden crisis occurs in the last few dozen pages that breaks the book’s pastoral pace. Rabagliati has difficulty conveying the emotional weight necessary for this latter section. In response, the author simply speeds up time, dashing through months and years, only skimming the surface. It’s a disappointing end to an otherwise charming book. With a slightly different approach, Rabagliati could have caught the big one.