photo & text by nacrowe
FRIENDSHIPS and ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS are prone to change and ultimately ATROPHY, much like the universe and its accelerated cosmic expansion that leaves us all ISOLATED and devoid of meaningful interaction. or such is the underlying guiding principle at play in the graphic novel OUR EXPANDING UNIVERSE (TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS, 2015) by ALEX ROBINSON, which follows the changes that CHILDBIRTH brings to the FRIENDSHIP of three men in their late thirties as they navigate RESPONSIBILITY and the quickly changing demands put on them by their PARTNERS. what feels like a DRIFTING APART and reordering of priorities is actually just the natural evolution of a healthy functioning adult.
in this narrative there are two extremes presented.
one of the three male FRIENDS is a confirmed bachelor with no long term ROMANTIC PROSPECTS on the horizon. TALKATIVE with numerous pet theories and prone to OVER-INTELLECTUALIZE just about anything, this dude does not have to implement his concepts into actual practice through any kind of MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP and is basically reliving a younger version of himself who smokes pot and seemingly plays XBOX all day. he never has to be truly VULNERABLE and thus make any meaningful GROWTH as a person.
another of the three males is married with two CHILDREN but has cheated on his wife at least twice. this is due to his perceived sexual needs that cannot be provided by a PARTNER who has physically CHANGED due to the EXTREME demands of childbirth. though economically stable as a teacher and nurturing and THOUGHTFUL as a supposed model of adult RESPONSIBILITY, his HYPOCRISY showcases the DOUBLE STANDARD of how men and women perceive their POWER in RELATIONSHIPS and how such alters over time and with the addition of CHILDREN in the mix.
its an interesting mix since the third male friend is basically navigating the impending birth of his DAUGHTER with his PARTNER with these two DYSFUNCTIONAL models of TROUBLED MASCULINITY. seemingly the glue in this close-knit group of friends, he is EMOTIONALLY AVAILABLE and somewhat NONJUDGMENTAL about their SHORTCOMINGS. he is EMPATHETIC to a point and makes his own life decisions related to his FAMILY informed but INDEPENDENT of their opinion. and i think such a dynamic is HEALTHY. its not indicative of a loss of supposed INTIMACY over time or the atrophying of the cosmic order as our collective FATE, it is a man growing into his own decision-making process as his PERSPECTIVE and RESPONSIBILITIES expand.
i personally have never had a CHILD but have been around people my age who have going back twenty years. i can only begin to imagine and appreciate the significance of such a TRANSFORMATIVE experience as CHILDBIRTH and the manner in which such an UNCONDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITY responsibility must have for one's sense of IDENTITY and relationship to the outside world. i have witnessed FRIENDS and FAMILY transition gracefully into such a role and others struggle. but at its core i never felt that such a transition was indicative of my stature being minimized. if anything it just meant more LOVE, more COMPASSION, more LIFE in the mix. if at all this expanding community was MOVING FOWARD together, albeit slightly REDEFINED.
i really enjoyed how much this graphic novel thoughtfully illustrated how navigating these tense waters of ADULT RESPONSIBILITY was a manifestation of owning one's own SHORTCOMINGS and addressing them head on. if anything we are all on that same trajectory whether we choose to accept such or not. OUR EXPANDING UNIVERSE is a THOUGHTFUL comic book well worth checking out.
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