I like Jimmy Beaulieu’s Suddenly Something Happened for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that he devotes several pages of his autobiographical graphic novel to explaining his love for the music of Brian Wilson. In this brief passage, Beaulieu’s gifts as a story-teller are on full display in that the artist reveals both his affinity for the self-proclaimed “psychadelicate” pop star and his own uncertainties about his own role as a man and an artist in post-post-modern society. Indeed, what makes Beaulieu’s work so endearing throughout this graphic novel is his willingness to explore all of his insecurities — from his bad luck with women throughout his early adulthood to his long-term ambivalence over living in Montreal.
Throughout the volume, Beaulieu also does some interesting things with narrative structure: in addition to jumping back and forth in time to illustrate the ways in which the past is always with us, he also manages to illustrate the ways in which we’re always in two places at once — within our mental space and our physical space — by offering competing narratives within the space of a single story. A trip to a boutique to help his girlfriend find a dress, for example, becomes two stories in one as the dialogue focuses on the girlfriend’s purchase while the narration reveals Beaulieu’s inner thoughts regarding the state of popular music and his own peculiar guilt and ambivalence over being a fan of the genre.
Interestingly, the author also has the humility to note in a brief epilogue that he’s concerned about “every awkwardly constructed sentence” in the book because English is not his first language. Yet what the written word doesn’t convey as elegantly as the author might like, the image depicts with absolute clarity. In terms of line drawings, Beaulieu is the master of the subtle (and not so subtle) facial ticks that reveal the deepest and most pressing of emotions. Despite the book’s title, Suddenly Something Happened offers readers a glimpse of the gradual blossoming of young artist into adulthood.