Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Review: “The Death Ray” by Daniel Clowes, Drawn and Quarterly, Graphic Novel, 2011, 41 pages.

This coffee table sized volume reprints the story as it originally appeared in Eightball #23 as then published by Fantagraphics, Inc. Here Mr. Clowes presents the coming of age tale of our protagonist, a teen aged Andy. As the plot unfolds opens we see an adult Andy in a confrontation with a litterer before we are then zapped back through time to his origin story.

Andy is a nerd, surrounded by nerds and bullies and a fractured family. This base is rather standard fare for the trope in many contemporary texts. Andy’s adventures, as well as his friends, and such items as the ‘death ray’ and nicotine, while very real in the story are, of course, the literary rungs on the ladder allowing Andy to climb out of adolescence, into maturity and break out of this seemingly unending cycle of complication. Ultimately this process, like the comic book super heroes he reads about, directs Andy’s world view and his life into a simplistic one of black and white.

Whether intended as the overall message of this tale of growth, I find this theme as dealt, rather forced. I found several of the rungs, such as the glimpse of sex and Andy’s interactions with his grandfather, to be predictable. Don’t get me wrong the story is interesting enough; the artwork mirrors the tale in its straightforward, though non-linear, take.

“The Death Ray” while juggling an overarching and complicated theme, with several disjointed pieces intentionally unresolved in the air, presents a resolution in a one-shot of clean simplicity.

This is not a bad story. Simply, it is a good story, and the light it beams while dimmer than others, is straight and true enough for a solid read. You should give it a try.

Buy this book.

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