Foreword Reviews - - Contents - by Peter Dabbene

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.

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