Monday, July 30, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Nine: "The Death-Ray"

If you forget about the title, the first half of Daniel Clowes' The Death-Ray seems very much like a gender-reversed Ghost World, as a pair of outcast boys navigate their teenage years.  And then, almost all of a sudden, one of the boys (Andy) discovers he has super-strength activated by smoking; and then, really all of a sudden, it turns out his Dad has left him a death-ray pistol that only he can use.  Stories about teen losers who suddenly inherit super powers and are forced to make difficult decisions are a staple of comics, but Clowes definitely gives an original, skewed take.  The characters in the book are very interesting, and I'm a fan of Clowes' artwork--I especially like all of the little details in the flashback scenes to the 1970s.  As a graphic novel though . . . I'm not convinced.  I think part of the problem is the casual whimsy of what happens to Andy, which leaves the reader thinking that anything can happen, and if anything can happen, why do we really care what does happen?  The plot just kinda dribbles away, and the ending is the very tired "meta" sort.

I'm not sure if that makes sense, but I guess I'm saying I far prefer Ghost World . . .

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