Before You Go is a short, thirty-three paged comic written and illustrated by Denise Schroeder. Originally published in the March 2014 issue of Chromatic Press’ online multimedia magazine Sparkler Monthly (which, by the way, is marvelous), a small print run of Before You Go was released in time to debut at the 2014 Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Schroeder is an American artist currently living in Colorado. Before reading Before You Go I wasn’t familiar with her work, but in addition to various other things she is also the creator of three webcomics: Conquest, The Good Prince, and Paradox. I actually briefly met Schroeder while at TCAF, which was a delight. She very openly and happily proclaims manga and anime as major influences on her work, Sailor Moon being the series that ignited her passion. I follow the work of Chromatic Press very closely which is how I came to discover Schroeder and Before You Go. I am very glad to have been exposed to her comics.
One rainy day Sadie misses catching her train home after work, but then her luck changes for the better. Because of the mishap she meets Robin. The two young women hit it off and suddenly Sadie’s daily commute becomes something she looks forward to because it means she gets to spend more time with Robin. Eventually Robin begins to walk Sadie the rest of the way home even though it’s out of her way. Sadie and Robin’s initial chance encounter quickly blossoms into friendship with the possibility for their relationship to become something even more. They enjoy each other’s company and have become quite close. At least that’s what Sadie would like to think. The problem is that Robin is hesitant to open up; while she definitely shows interest in Sadie, she doesn’t seem to want to share anything about herself. Trust and communication are extremely important in any relationship, but they can also be some of the scariest parts, too.
Most of Before You Go either takes place on the train or on the way to and from the station as Sadie and Robin get to know each other. Their flirting and blushing is absolutely adorable. Even though Before You Go is a short comic, both Robin and Sadie are fully realized characters with distinctive personalities. They have hopes and dreams, and they have fears and regrets, too. Of the two, Sadie is the more dynamic and exuberant, evidence of her passion for the theater and performance. Robin tends to be more reserved, content to quietly observe. As Sadie points out in Before You Go, closely watching someone else can be valuable, but even that can’t reveal everything about who that person is. Because Before You Go is a comic, the act of looking and the visual storytelling elements are important for the reader’s understanding, too. The surprise, love, and concern between Sadie and Robin can be seen in Schroeder’s artwork even when the two women aren’t saying, or can’t say, anything at all.
Before You Go is a wonderful and utterly charming comic. I particularly appreciate the realism of the story as well as the realism of the characters and their relationship and interactions with each other. The comic has a quirky sense of humor to it which balances perfectly with the more serious and contemplative aspects of Before You Go. It’s also nice to see a love story between two adult women that recognizes the problems that someone who is queer might encounter in life without dwelling on the sadness that that so often entails. Before You Go is a quiet drama with honest heart and feeling behind it. The comic may be brief, but it is also marvelously complete–both the characters and the story are well thought out and developed with more maturity and depth than might appear at first glance. In the end, Before You Go is simply a comic that makes me happy to read. I look forward to seeing more of Schroeder’s work in the future.