I was perusing the graphic novel section at my local public library when I noticed a book written by Jim Broadbent. Wait, Jim Broadbent? The Oscar winning actor? Professor Slughorn? Archmaester Ebrose? That Jim Broadbent?
Sure enough, the same Jim Broadbent has penned Dull Margaret (2018), his first graphic novel, illustrated by Dix. The story follows a woman who hunts eels to sell in the local market. She doesn't fit in to the local community, and is shunned and exiled. Margaret concocts a potion to bring her wealth and companionship. Yet when she gets her friend, she has no ability to treat him well as she has never experienced friendship before. Margaret's desire for vengeance on a world that has wronged her sees her blur the lines between heroine and horror.
Dix's illustrations are macabre but compelling. Many pages feature a series of images which show Margaret's actions and angst. His Margaret is pale, thin and ghostly. Dix uses a muted palette of browns and greens to illustrate Margaret's bleak existence. He is a talented artist, creating evocative and unsettling panels.
Broadbent was inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting Dulle Griet and crafted this story to explore Margaret's life outside the painting. While I appreciate his desire to create a story from a painting he loves, the story he created did not move me at all. I was not interested in Margaret and found the whole experience rather tiresome. Dull Margaret is indeed very dull.
Nick Drasno's Sabrina and Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan are much better graphic novels which explore themes of loneliness and longing.