The Joyners in 3D

I have the sinking feeling that this is another graphic novel, like Asterios Polyp, where the visual hijinks will distract enough people that no one will want to talk about how stereotypical and pointless the story is.

The Joyners in 3D is actually printed in 3D, requiring red/blue glasses to read it. It comes with two pair and a cute note about sharing. (The gimmick made review copies particularly difficult for the publisher, who had to send out paper glasses to go along with digital downloads. Perhaps that also explains why the book, originally promoted in 2012 and due in 2013, is a year late.) Oddly, the art is mostly readable without them, done with strong black lines and shapes with greyish-olive tones. It’s the text that is entirely doubled up, making the word balloons pop off the page.

The story is set in the near future, complete with flying cars, although it’s treated as a cosmetic overlay, without much significance. George Joyner is a rich tech inventor who’s too selfish to get divorced; he’d rather stay in an unhappy marriage than share his fortune. It’s for the kids, he says, the underdeveloped son Rochester and the autistic Michelle. Sonya, his wife, has little character motivation. She’s a plot device, fooling around with a guy her son’s age, while George is stupid enough to make a play for Michelle’s live-in psychotherapist.

The author has an odd tendency to introduce side characters — the wife’s father, the nanny’s boyfriend — and maim them without then following up on their expressed purpose or quest. Sometimes the chapters read as though they were written for different projects and just lumped together to make a page count.

Thanks to the 3D, which didn’t play well with my regular glasses, it took me much longer than usual to read this, and I resented that. I didn’t like spending time with any of these people, and while good reads can have unlikeable characters, there wasn’t any compensating factor to this story, no deep observation about human nature, no funny lines, no particularly standout, well-captured moment. Everyone has the same voice, too.

I’m mostly left with questions. The biggest is why tell this story, an internal family drama driven by conversation, in 3D? But also, why is this set in the future? Nothing about the story requires that. Why are the characters so flat and predictable and stereotypical? No one wants to change themselves in any way or demonstrates any self-awareness. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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