Sunday, November 30, 2014

Warm Reception

I just read Daniel Clowes' Ice Haven.  At 90 pages, and told in comic strips, it didn't take long.  And yet when you read a well-done graphic novel (a phrase the self-conscious Harry Naybors, a comic book critic inside the story, mocks), you realize how much the format can get across in very little space.

Clowes is best known to the general public as the creator of Ghost World, a 1997 graphic novel that was a collection of several years of work in his comic book Eightball.  It was turned into a movie in 2001, co-written by Clowes.  Ice Haven, first published in Eightball, came out in hard cover in 2005. It's about the titular town, concentrating on a handful of inhabitants.  There's no single story, and if there's any connecting tissue, it's about the kidnaping of the hapless child David Goldberg.

But it's not a linear work.  The story is told from oblique angles.  Each strip concentrates on one character, whether it's bizarre detective  Mr. Ames (whose wife is cheating on him), secret author Random Wilder, troubled child Charles, monosyllabic convenience store clerk Kim Lee, lovelorn Violet, or quite a few others.  For that matter, the story isn't restricted to those living in the town.  We get a trip back 100,000 years ago to caveman Rocky, the first person to stumble upon the area, a glance at a novel about Leopold and Loeb and a chapter in the adventures of Blue Bunny, a child's stuffed animal.  And different strips are done in different styles.

There's a general sense of yearning, a lot of unease, and enough humor to get us through.  Not unlike real life.


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