Wet Moon, Book 1 Feeble Wanderings
Sophie Campbell, Oni Press, Softcover $19.99 (176pp), 978-1-62010-304-3
Sophie Campbell’s Wet Moon, Book 1: Feeble Wanderings is a gothic mystery blessed with high-level characterization and art. Formerly known as Ross Campbell, writer/artist Sophie Campbell presumably appreciates an outsider’s view of the world, and her characters, students at a southern art school, bring a refreshing sense of verisimilitude to the book. The center of the Wet Moon universe is freshman Cleo Lovedrop, but there are at least a dozen characters who feature prominently. With piercings, unusual hairstyles, and bodies that don’t often resemble superheroes or stereotypical heartthrobs, there’s little difficulty suspending disbelief and accepting these characters as genuine, which makes the hints of trouble to come more exciting. The first volume of Wet Moon has been previously published, but it’s presented here in a new edition that offers extra artwork and a five-page short story. In some ways, Wet Moon resembles a more youthful and Americanized version of Gary Spencer Milledge’s Strangehaven series, and similar to those books, Campbell uses black-and-white art to nicely juxtapose the bland but complex everyday details of life with subtle indications of foreboding.
Not much of note actually seems to be happening throughout book 1, and even for some of its intended young adult audience, the immersion into goth subculture might be too much. But if much of Wet Moon is unfamiliar territory, that’s part of the thrill; its characters are helplessly human, and with a stunning cliffhanger ending, the goal has been accomplished—it’s difficult to imagine any reader not wondering, “What happens next?”
Thoreau A Sublime Life
Maximilien Le Roy, A. Dan, illustrator, NBM Graphic Novels Hardcover $19.99 (88pp), 978-1- 68112-025-6
Maximilien Le Roy and artist A. Dan illustrate the life of writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, in the graphic novel Thoreau: A Sublime Life.
Similar to John Porcellino’s graphic novel Thoreau at Walden, Le Roy begins with Thoreau at Walden Pond, living a simple life as a writer and farmer. However, where Porcellino’s book focuses solely on Thoreau’s time at Walden, Le Roy proceeds to expand the view through action and Thoreau’s own words—his philosophy of civil disobedience, his role as an active abolitionist, and his thoughts about religion and the Native American model of living. The limited use of captions makes one scene seem to fall into the next, dreamlike, a choice that allows the narrative to flow easily, but also relies on an attentive reader. In a three-page scene portraying the 1856 Pottawatomie Creek Massacre, its leader, John Brown, is not identified, and there’s no link to Thoreau until ten pages later, when Brown and Thoreau are shown talking.
Brown plays a more prominent role than one might expect, as Thoreau defends the violent abolitionist, notably disagreeing with none other than Abraham Lincoln. An afterword by Professor Michael Granger, a specialist in the study of Thoreau, sheds more light on the evolution of Thoreau’s philosophies, including this apparent acceptance of violence in some situations. It’s this more complete view, as delivered through A. Dan’s detailed art, that makes Thoreau: A Sublime Life a necessary and valuable addition to the graphic literature about Thoreau.
Hole in the Heart Bringing Up Beth
Henny Beaumont, Penn State University Press Graphic Medicine Series, Softcover $24.95 (288pp) 978-0- 271-07740-6
Hole in the Heart: Bringing Up Beth, part of Penn State’s Graphic Medicine series, is artist Henny Beaumont’s brutally honest, and ultimately uplifting, account of raising a daughter with Down syndrome.
“Hole in the heart” refers to a common heart abnormality in children with Down syndrome, one which Beth, Beaumont’s daughter, has surgery to correct. But the title also refers to the battle for Beaumont and her husband to truly understand and embrace their daughter as she is; from the beginning, they often attempt to ignore or work around Beth’s limited abilities, while experiencing a gamut of emotions: guilt and sadness, hope and frustration, and, eventually, acceptance and love.
Beaumont has an MA in fine art and printmaking, and she transitions that experience to sequential art particularly effectively. The narrative flows easily, and when Beaumont chooses to slow it down, the results are gut-wrenching, as with an imaginary “visit” from Beaumont’s 15-years-older self, as the elder woman tries to impart perspective and patience to the younger one. The facial expressions of Beaumont’s characters show everything from sympathy to embarrassment to condescension, as Beaumont and her husband struggle to make good choices for Beth regarding schools, activities, and friends.
Hole in the Heart is a deeply affecting graphic novel that will certainly light a path, if not the only path, for other parents of children with Down syndrome. But it might be even more important for those with no experience with Down syndrome, to help gain an understanding of how the genetic disorder affects not just the child, but the child’s entire family. No matter the audience, the book’s message is universal.