Long Hot Summer
Writer Eric Stephenson’s Long Hot Summer is a story about two friends during the summer a woman came between them. Readers may find themselves expecting an Oni Press label on this graphic novel, given the subject matter, format, art style, and the characters’ interests in music and scooters, but Stephenson is Image’s Executive Director, so this becomes another example of that publisher’s diversity.
Ken is a mooch. He’s always bumming drinks, cigarettes, and rides from Steve. One day, he shows up talking about Ashley, the new girl he’s going out with. Over the summer, we find out that Ken wants more from their relationship than she does. Then Steve asks Ashley out.
Steve’s pretty much a cipher throughout the book, and I never understood why he put up with Ken. I get the impression that he’s the author’s doppelganger. Perhaps the portrayal is an accurate capture or fictionalization of particular events, but as a reader who doesn’t know these people, I’m not sure why they do some of the things they do beyond “that’s what they did.” There are also too many people who float in and out of the story without much reason to be there.
This is the kind of work where the characters say the same things the reader is thinking, making subtext text. Ken verbalizes how badly other people think of him. (If he’s that self-aware, how can he stand to stay the way he is?) A dj friend of the two starts events moving by telling Steve that he and Ashley were looking at each other in special ways. Steve tells Ken that there are problems in Ken’s relationship with Ashley. Ashley and Steve narrate their history to each other.
Jamie McKelvie is a fairly new artist, with this his first full-length work, and at times, that shows in the art. The characters are a bit too posed, although they’re the right poses to capture the mood of the moment, and the thick ink outlines of the figures sometimes suggest paper dolls. On the whole, though, this is strong, attractive work. I look forward to seeing more of his art.
If the goal of this book was to capture the same itchy, dispossessed feeling of Steve’s summer, it’s successful. It’s labeled a romance, but like so many modern love stories, there’s no happy ending. No one seems to have learned much, and the feeling we’re left with is that of the characters’ wasted time.