The Jour­nal of the Main Street Se­cret Lodge, Vol. 2

Stephen Gil­bert, 289 pgs, Fourth Di­men­sion, $19.95

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

Steven Gil­bert’s sec­ond vol­ume to this pas­sion­ately lo­cal series brings the Vic­to­rian fron­tier nar­ra­tive to New­mar­ket, On­tario, in a big way. The bulk of this vol­ume tells of “The In­ci­dent at Black Wil­low Is­land,” where Cap­tain Woodrow F. Gil­bert faces down a Zo­diac Killer-in­spired crime syn­di­cate as it sets up camp in the oth­er­wise de­fense­less ru­ral town. Gil­bert’s nar­ra­tive hits all beats ex­pected in this kind of story — a stand-up, though con­flicted, ag­ing hero; mul­ti­ple feats of am­pli­fy­ing dan­ger; a som­bre, jus­tice-based res­o­lu­tion. It is the pre­sen­ta­tion, though, that sets the Main Street Se­cret Lodge apart from its con­tem­po­raries.

Gil­bert sheds light on a ge­o­graphic and cul­tural lo­cale that sees very lit­tle at­ten­tion in con­tem­po­rary Cana­dian lit­er­a­ture — the string of com­muter-towns run­ning north from Toronto once had his­to­ries and res­i­dents en­tirely re­moved from that city, and the clever game Gil­bert plays with that his­tory is a re­fresh­ing one. His stun­ning cross hatched il­lus­tra­tions stand out for their abil­ity to en­gage in play­ful ex­ag­ger­a­tion in some in­stances, and bona fide sub­lime land­scape else­where, rep­re­sent­ing a kind of mid­dle ground be­tween Daniel Clowes and Ch­ester Brown. Thus, Gil­bert’s vis­ual style tells more of a story than his nar­ra­tive ever seeks to. He cap­tures a lo­ca­tion and its dra­matic mo­ment in time with­out los­ing his sense of hu­mour. A must-read. (Joel W. Vaughan)

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