'It Will All Hurt'

Cover to ‘It Will All Hurt’. Art by Farel Dalrymple/Image Comics

By Mickey Rivera. A common myth surrounding childhood imaginations, perpetuated by basically every body including myself, is that they’re simple. Kids exist in a world without bills or jobs or the other boring, anxiety producing aspects of human existence — so, in passing, I imagine their minds must only be filled with the kind of neatly packaged cartoon fantasies you could pitch to Disney. In reality, childhood imaginations are messy. They are glowing, undulating primordial swamps filled with everything a kid has ever known: memories without the context of lived experience, emotions that inexplicably distort reality; stories from movies and video games and books that offer infinite sets of possible realities; and a secret belief in literal magic and their own personal responsibility over the fate of the planet.

There is mysticism and danger in childhood daydreaming, a way of rearranging lived experience and mediated experience that playfully picks and chooses which rules it wants to follow in a given moment. As a comic, It Will All Hurt by Farel Dalrymple functions much the same way. Everything about this book, from the narrative style to the mixed-media artwork and the panel structure, is a beautifully orchestrated exercise in do-as-you-will playfulness. Originally released online in 2012 by the amazing Study Group Comics, this volume from Image collects every issue in all its professionally printed glory. While I would warn that it’s not for those who want their comics to make immediate sense, if the idea of a gorgeously illustrated, poetically cerebral fairytale appeals to you then this is certainly your jam right here.

Loosely summarized, It Will All Hurt is a surrealist fable concerning the lives of seven children (including an android) on a distant future Earth that underwent an unnamed calamity. The children, who find themselves banding together to fight an evil “Red Wizard,” inhabit a world that operates on fantasy-based dream logic, a place where the line between the real and the imaginary is completely nonexistent. These children cast spells with wands made of twigs, are chased after by shadows that live in the walls of office buildings. They speak to cats and transform into squirrels and are surrounded by a couple acid tabs’ worth of creatures, beings, spirits, essences memories, clouds, castles, insects, aliens… I could go on. It Will All Hurt is permeated by imagination and sorcery, delivered with the deadpan wistfulness of magical realism.

The dream logic isn’t just a plot device in It Will All Hurt, it’s a way of life. As we follow these kids, who for all we can tell might be daydreamed projections conjured by bored adolescents on a field trip, the narrative flows with a stream-of-consciousness quickness, skipping on waves of expressive non-sequitur and visuals that fluctuate between iconography and panel-to-panel action. These illustrations speak to the classic art of children’s storybooks, but depict a postmodern childhood where archetypal fantasy tropes serve as costumes for playground fun-making. And as much as reading It Will All Hurt feels like watching a bunch of kids have fun pretending to be wizards and fighting evil forces, these backyard fantasy plots touch upon anxieties that beleaguer us all the way into adulthood: identity, personal agency, guilt, anger, manipulation. This comic never gets too dark, but Dalrymples’ artwork borrows much from the occasionally uncanny and unnerving standards and stylings of children’s literature. Think Where the Wild Things Are kneaded together with a chunk of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, then wrapped in ayahuasca leaves and blessed by a sorcerer.

If you can handle a story that takes intense liberties with everything you know about narrative structure and visual storytelling, and in fact are keen on that sort of thing, then It Will All Hurt is a must read. While you’re at it you should check out their sister comics, The Wrenchies and the recently released Proxima Centauri (reviewed here by DoomRocket’s own Brandy Dykhuizen). It Will All Hurt rescues a creative mode of existence that adults tend to repress out of necessity, but which is vital to understanding the world as a nascent human being.

Image Comics/$18.99

Created by Farel Dalrymple.

9.5 out of 10

‘It Will All Hurt’ is in stores now. You can purchase it here.


Enjoy this three-page preview of ‘It Will All Hurt’, courtesy of Image Comics!