There's this scene in Sam Alden's Hawaii 1997 where the characters turn into blobs and prance upon the beach, and I'm stuck on it. Their lack of definition leaves room to superimpose our own presence, yeah, but there's something else of the scene's anonymity which lends it power.
Maybe it has something to do with speed. Like drawings made with this loose kind of abandon hurry the half-fold grid Alden has on tap, but more so there seems a need to distant these images from detail, like any time spent on character's faces or anatomy would obstruct the energy/memory of the sequence. This way they're just ceaseless forms bouncing, the smudge of their boxy lines nothing but texture. And it's all about texture - like it is in nearly any other Alden story.
But here, with Hawaii 1997, texture is more so the anchor than the events. That's probably an arguable thing to write because, sure, the story does center on the scene mentioned above, but it's not a comic blanketed by an event like incest or whatever the fuck happened in Backyard. It's more so about an impression, and while the example Alden chooses to depict - children discovering their own paradise before loosing it - is catchy, with a pop hook, the overall description of this comic won't overpower everything else. We're looking at something softer, presenting an opening for the comic's other tendencies to kidnap the conversation. Line art being one of them.
Granted, I'm not sure this discussion point is something new in the larger Alden dialogue, but with this piece line certainly plays a stronger role because it communicates a recognizable amount of this story's tone. The washed away, disconnected appearance isn't always as abrasive as in the page shown above, but the general aesthetic strings through the comic, and with it comes its synergy to the story or thought.
Drawn this way, Hawaii 1997 shows these memories how you might feel them - slowed down (thanks to the more cinematic grid in use) and faint, or scattered. You might call the execution cheap - maybe too easy or obvious - but it doesn't seem to matter when it works so well, and, too, it shows Alden as an artist willing - if not interested - in manipulating his style to serve a story he wants to tell. Because this isn't drawn like Backyard or Household, his other hit singles. Those play more upon shading, emphasizing perspectives both within and removed from the narrative. Here ... he's blanketing everything we see in a general haze - one that could either be menacing or romantic - and Alden twists the knob on its prevalence when the story requires it.
Like with the blobs. It's heavy. It's the moment most called upon in memory, the instance that tainted all the others with its beauty. Taking that the young boy in the comic is named Sam, you could assume this is Alden looking back on something, but in general - to remove the autobiographical reading - it's clear the visual narrator of this story is some years removed from the event. And like with us all - those sorts of moments - we recall them as not bullet points linked in a series of actions but rather a mix of emotions, smells and color. That's how these things ruin everything else, after all, because we cannot analyze them objectively. All the fun stuff - the blonde hair and the giggle - stands in the way. And partly, that's our fault. Because we want to view it as such. We want those sensations to linger.
And that's how the last page hits so hard. Because it's true. We will search forever to find it again. How could you not when you know what it tastes like?
It's a beautiful ending, and it's a cut above the other spectacles Alden laces his conclusions with because while a grand moment, it doesn't really end there. That's just the second we clocked out.