Written and Illustrated by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
Age is a funny thing. We set the idea that certain numbers have special meaning. One of them is turning thirty. In order to reconize this point in her life, autobio comic creator Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg chronicled the thirty days before her thirtieth birthday, trying to expand her creative skills while showing what it was like to transition into the next decade of her life. The result is a very personal look at a month in her life and realizations that should resonate with anyone of a similar age or who's trying to figure out their place in life.
I probably say this too often, but I'll mention it again--one of the things that's important about an autobiographical mini-comic is for the author to be honest with the reader. You have to share your anxieties and fears along with the cute moments, or it comes across shallow at best, and disingenuous at worst. I'm not saying that you have to be the worst person in your comic (something I think happened to James Kochalka a lot), but if it's only the highlights, I'm going to wonder where the lowlights are.
Lisa understands this, and while she worries at the end that she was too positive, I think the balance is just right. We see her worrying about roommate issues, with her boyfriend assuring her that she thinks her friendships are a lot more shallow than they actually are. In another instance, there's awkward silence in her drawing class that she teaches. We see a fight over staying at a party too long. These are all little touches that happen to all of us, every day, in some form or another. Lisa's letting us know it happens to her, too, and that's what makes her autobio comics work so well.
It also means that when things are going well for her, we can celebrate those moments with Lisa. It might be watching cartoons as an adult, or her birthday celebration. The anticipation of possible getting a career-changing job in animation also fills Lisa with potential excitement--and a bit of dread, of course.
Lisa's linework across these daily strips is very strong, probably because after setting a "two hours, no more" rule at the outset, she started cheating, doing outlines and then playing catch-up. It might not have been her original plan, but the resulting comics are stronger, I think, for the time taken on them. We don't have loose, flying lines, obvious mistakes, or other errors that come from rushing the work. While I like my autobio comics honest, I also like them to show a sense of craft, not "I wrote this at 11:57pm and then went to bed." Lisa's style is very consistent here, such as showing a few hairs perpetually out of place, regardless of the situation. Her outfits change depending on the place she's depicting, and it's very easy to see when recurring characters, such as her boyfriend, weave in and out of the narrative. We don't get a lot of backgrounds--most of the panels are medium looks--but there's enough to know where she is: At home, at school, or outside in the Portland day (or night). A heavy use of greyscale helps to break up the look of each page, as does varying the ways in which each panel is constructed.
30 'til 30 is a peek into Lisa's life at an important moment--one that could have been really transformative for her but ultimately still shows a woman who has a lot going for her in life, even if it can be stressful. She can be proud of knowing what her life was like between 29 and 30, that artificial barrier many of us place on ourselves, for good or ill. In this case, I think it was good, and I believe that readers of this comic will agree.