*Tricked — Recommended

Alex Robinson, author of Box Office Poison, returns with another sprawling novel in Tricked. In 350 pages, he tells of a series of significant events that intertwine the lives of six people: a jaded, creatively blocked rock star; a retailer of sports collectibles who forges autographs; a teenager seeking her biological father; an antisocial music fan with psychological issues; a diner waitress; and a record company office assistant. It’s the comic equivalent of the ensemble independent film.

The structure is wonderful in its simplicity. Each character is introduced with an individual vignette before numbered chapters count down to the final defining moment that draws them all together. At first, each character carries their own chapters, but soon, more of them begin interacting. The length, and the resulting reading time, allows the reader to really get to know them.

Ray, the rock star, has plenty of money but no inspiration. He’s under increasing pressure to finally release a new album, or he’ll have to admit to himself that he’s a has-been. When he meets Lily, he’s intrigued by her — she doesn’t succumb to his usual brusque advances, and so she becomes his muse instead of his fling. He’s flabbergasted to meet someone who interacts with him instead of his reputation or power or money, all the components of the facade he’s built.

Nick, the collectibles dealer, is an accurately disturbing portrait of a compulsive liar. The reader isn’t shown whatever combination of events brought him to this situation, and at first, he plays like a regular guy who isn’t all that bad. Without paying careful attention, the reader won’t recognize just how twisted he is. He’s perhaps the most fascinating character in the book because he seems so normal but events in his life are so out of control, and he has absolutely no truth in himself.

Steve, in contrast, is anything but normal. He craves control, but as he stops taking his medication, he looks for it in unusual places, like coded messages in rock albums. His path is obvious very early on, and he’s the least three-dimensional of the six, as his world spirals down into ever-more-incoherent mental rants (nicely captured through disintegrating hand lettering for his captions).

Robinson’s dialogue, whether conversational or internal monologue, is his strength. It reads easily and smoothly because it’s realistic, yet it’s made up of distinct voices. Similarly, his characters are of varied body types and behave as people the reader could know, with just the right body language to express the wide range of emotions that makes up their lives. They’re likable, or at least understandable, even when the reader doesn’t agree with their actions or motivations.

Box Office Poison cover
Box Office Poison
Buy this book

All of the group have their lives changed by lies. The teenager doesn’t know her real father. Ray learns to stop lying to himself. Nick is punished for his lies to his customers, while Lily is rewarded for her essential truthfulness in who she is. Caprice, the waitress (and a carryover character from BOP), learns to appreciate honesty in a relationship and make better choices. There’s also the theme of how fame changes people, from the reclusive celebrity to the insane loser who will become notorious.

It’s tempting to speculate that Robinson may feel something in common with Ray, a creative type who’s had one big success and spent a lot of time wondering if he’ll ever be ever to match it, let alone surpass it. If that happens to be the case, Robinson has no worries. Box Office Poison was a sprawling series, created as individual issues over a period of years, and like an over-large ship under sail, it sometimes gave the impression of changing directions without the author’s full control. Tricked, in contrast, was created as a graphic novel, and it shows — it’s tighter in structure, with a greater sense of purpose and more fully realized characters, making for an enjoyable, rewarding read.

More information is available from the artist’s website or the publisher’s.

Similar Posts: *Too Cool to Be Forgotten — Recommended § *Capote in Kansas — Recommended § *Vogelein: Old Ghosts — Recommended § *Finder: Sin-Eater — Recommended § *Rapunzel’s Revenge — Recommended


14 Responses to “*Tricked — Recommended”

  1. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison (JAN06 3353) and Tricked (JAN06 3354) are both back in print from Top Shelf. Both are sprawling novels of a large cast of young adults looking to find themselves. Tricked is tighter, simply because it was written as an original graphic novel instead of a collected series, but both are worth reading. I’m just sorry my copies don’t have the cool-looking coordinating pastel-tinted covers. [...]

  2. KYUSS Says:

    i think i am gonna buy this if i can find it in the UK.

    great site btw.

  3. Ron DeMarco Says:

    I just finished BOP tonight, and am hopping online to get Tricked and I think that it’s called More BOP.

    I couldn’t put BOP down. Good thing that I didn’t have that much to do this weekend.

  4. blue fox Says:

    More BOP is actually a one shot Robinson did, which just has a couple of stories with some of the characters from BOP, doesn’t really add/take away from the original…

  5. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Bravo to Alex Robinson and Top Shelf for breaking the DC/Marvel monopoly by getting Tricked into the Favorite Graphic Novel category. [...]

  6. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Oh, and I almost forgot to mention my “celebrity sighting”. I walk into Jim Hanley’s Universe and almost bump into Alex Robinson (whose graphic novel Tricked I really enjoyed) and Mike Dawson (whose graphic novel Freddie and Me I’m looking forward to reading when it’s published next year). [...]

  7. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Unlike some others, the only problem I had with everyone in the same room was the noise level. It was more convenient and easier to browse with everyone there. I wasn’t able to check out any of the panels or evening programming, due to time constraints on my part, so I can’t speak to that. Heidi has the Ignatz Winners — and I’m sorry I missed seeing her host them — of which I was especially pleased to see these winners: Outstanding Graphic Novel Tricked by Alex Robinson (Top Shelf Productions) [...]

  8. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Tony Consiglio and Alex Robinson are self-serializing their new work in this minicomic series. [...]

  9. Top Shelf on Sale! » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] of my favorites are available at the bargain $3 price, including Tricked, BOP!, and 110 Percent. The Owly books and Carnet de Voyage are discounted as well. [...]

  10. Random Thought LinkBlogging » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Robinson’s Lower Regions — Tom Spurgeon has done a better job than I could. I do love Alex’s work, but I’m not anywhere near the right person to read a storyless comic based on a role-playing [...]

  11. Max Ink’s Blink » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] a big Alex Robinson fan, and the minicomics of Max Ink have a similar feel. Blink is the title, and there are four [...]

  12. *Too Cool to Be Forgotten — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Robinson (Tricked, Box Office Poison) is best known for his mastery of handling a sprawling, connected, soap [...]

  13. Coming Up: Graphic Novels Due Later Than September 2010 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Robinson’s Tricked (JUL10 1148, $19.95, Top Shelf, due September — which makes it the only one coming out in the [...]

  14. SPX Programming Posted — Come See My Panel » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] try to stop by the focus on Alex Robinson (Box Office Poison), since I’ve enjoyed all of his graphic novels I’ve read. That’s Saturday at [...]

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