French art student Noemie moves to Chicago (oddly re-named Onion City) to attend an art history class, behind her she leaves a recently exxed boyfriend and her family in favour of a lonely new land.
Here she finds a new friend who attends the same class and is pursued by a young photographer to whom she shows interest. As the story unfolds she begins to have strange dreams of a young girl travelling a fantastical land; and slowly Noemie’s daytime life seems to mirror her sleeping one.
Gray Horses is Hope Larson’s second book after the critically acclaimed “Salamander Dream” and once again she creates something that only really begins to come alive to the reader after several readings. The “fish out of water” story of a young girl finding her path in life is at first glance deceptive. It is after a second reading that elements begin to reveal themselves and the third when they finally begin to coalesce into something that reveals the stories true nature.
Memories are explored through the use of photographs that are half indicators to the memory in question and half symbolic of a person’s use of such memories. Certain panels within the comic story also emulate the framing and style of photographs to bring an alternate or enhanced meaning to certain images.
For the most part Larson uses no other image borders, the sides of each panel bleeding out across the page in the pale peach she uses to embellish her art. Speech bubbles are also used in an eccentric manner, their tails twisting and curving, and images sometimes wrap around each other and come between characters and their words. In doing this Larson creates a work where the text and images combine in a unique relationship where speeches effect and actions causes become blurred.
In itself this technique is an attempt to blur the various ideas as well as the techniques involved, which is in many ways the purpose of the books narrative.
Grey Horses concerns itself with a moment in time. Both the past and the future are mysteries and though they bear some effect on the story, the story is not a reflection on them. The book is about a few days in Noemie’s life and the decisions she comes to because of the influence of her dreams and random connections she finds in the real world that relates to them.
Ultimately the meaning behind it all is up to the readers interpretation and will no doubt depend upon the readers own bias and belief, and this is where Grey Horses becomes most interesting. With each reading the story alters and new things become important as old ideas concerning its meaning are over shadowed. The book becomes a subtly altering work that adapts to the reader and as such becomes a story mirror.
So any interpretation of meanings and its symbols are almost pointless as the story moves into a place that is almost completely subjective. With this Hope Larson creates something of real worth and longevity, though it may require imagination and self discovery to see it.