In this episode–what I’ve been calling the separate "books" or stories within this work–we get a closer look into John’s psyche and his depression.
Porcellino opens with environment, showing an image of John’s house in Hoffman Estates, IL that indicates middle-class neighborhood, and one of my questions from the earlier story is answered: John’s bedroom is in the basement. Previously, he was awakened and went upstairs for breakfast. This is one of the cool things about comics/graphic novels: it is the epitomy of "show, don’t tell."
So John’s depressed, as evidenced not only by his apparent boredom, but by his near fetal position as he sorts out his thoughts. He is talked to by his parents and told to get a haircut. He asks his sister to give him one and amid falling hair, we see that his sister is also upset, wondering "Why do they hate us?" So she’s likely not much older than John. As he views himself in the mirror, hair cut short as his parents required, he wonders about the purpose of life. "People, places, things come and go, but they’re no more real than shadows on a wall." Here I detect a more adult thinking about the world and life, trying to put it all into perspective, going beyond the immature "me" to signify a relationship with all mankind in its common question.
John goes out with his best friend Fred for a ride and a walk down the railroad tracks (symbolic perhaps of the beginning of a journey) and they ask each other their plans after high school graduation. John isn’t sure and while he mentions joining Greenpeace, he is easily swayed by his buddy’s derision. Meanwhile, Fred knows that he’s going to Northern (editorial note: Northern Illinois University) and suggests that John join him, however, Fred knows it’s in DeKalb, but doesn’t seem to know where that is…
John returns home in a much better mood after his time spent with Fred (patting the dog which he previously pushed aside when he left the house) and decides to call Kristi to ask her to be his girlfriend. Still in a good mood, he writes in his journal "Something I learned today, never look straight int the sun’s rays." However, these two panels are different–evidently indicating a different time and we see also that John’s hair is long here.
While the panels continue in their straight-edged format, John’s hair is a long as he meets with Kristi and asked her to be his girl. She naturally leaves him hanging and we go back to the dreamlike edges of her answer and his remark, "letting all the sun shine in."
His reflection returns to the day of the haircut, and even his dog is asleep which prompts "nothing at all to depend on, sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m alive."
John evidently did apply to Northern (and we hope he learns where it is before September) and tells his mother who greatly approves. There is one panel where they just stand there looking at each other without conversation, and this may symbolize a turning point in their relationship.
John is happy, thinking about college, goes to the library, and totally doesn’t listen as the librarian asks him to leave the skateboard outside. He’s in the "Weirdo, Neat Stuff, Love and Rockets" book section. We begin to wonder if John is truly ready for college. There is a thunderstorm as John walks home, and the story ends with the ominous "and the summer had just begun."
Interesting, more so than the first quick read-through. Still, there is a sense that things will continue in an up and down pattern for our protagonist. But then, isn’t this a "Perfect Example" of life for the average person?