- Posted by Johanna on September 26, 2010 at 10:00 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Len N. Wallace; illustrated by Michelle Silva; additional art by Dave Tuney
- PUBLISHER: Oni Press; $14.95 US
This familiar-feeling story follows Norm and Maggie from meeting in high school through dating, breaking up, reuniting, cheating on each other, moving away, and a couple of marriage proposals.
Personally, being further away from my young adulthood than I would like, I wanted to sit the two down and give them some good advice. They don’t seem to have anyone in their lives who’s willing to do that. Norm — since it’s distinctly his story — has two friends, a guy and girl, who aren’t developed sufficiently and mostly serve to show he’s not completely alone when he’s not dating. Maggie mentions bandmates, but we never see them. Where are their parents or those who could help them when they need important advice? Are young adults really left so alone these days? If so, it helps explain why the two keep returning to a relationship that’s not good for them and why they make such inappropriate snap decisions.
The art, by Michelle Silva, is very well-done, but too often, it’s not necessary to the story, which is heavily dialogue-driven. It shows where the two are, but with a few exceptions, the story wasn’t framed in such a way that the illustrations add significant meaning to what’s going on. I’ve also seen this “aspiring cartoonist struggles with love” comic too many times by now to appreciate another version. I’m sure it’s realistic, but that doesn’t mean it makes for a good read. I would like to see more from Silva, though.
The most unusual, outstanding element of this book are the sketchbook sections by Dave Tuney. Since Norm is a comic artist, he draws (as shown by Tuney) fictionalized versions of what’s going on in his life in the styles of earlier works. His girlfriend is praised as a kick-butt secret agent in an adventure comic, or heartbreak is set in a noir detective tale. (An overplayed genre, but I like Tuney’s bow-tied, fedora-wearing young hero.) There’s also a Tintin-based piece. The only time this doesn’t work for me is the opening of the book, which starts with two disgusting pages of a horror work that has little to do with anything else going on. I wish there had been more use of this device, since it appears so few times that it seems the writer wasn’t really committed to it. When the last sequence appeared, it had been so long since we’d seen the sketch sections that I’d forgotten at first what it meant.
There isn’t really the level of insight I hoped would explain some of the stupider decisions made by the protagonists. We’re shown, for example, a drunken hookup happening, but I didn’t get a sense of how the participant really felt about that decision and its aftermath. Over the time period of the book, the characters seem the same people at beginning and end, without a true portrayal of what it means to grow up, accept responsibility for your choices, and learn and move on. Given the common subject matter, without that aspect of the story, this book just becomes “more of the same”.