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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Swallow Me Whole -- Nate Powell's longest single story to date is also his best. The creator of Walkie Talkie, Please Release and other very good comics delivers an eerie, mysterious tale of that most everyday of subject, a family and their home.

Ruth and Perry are teenagers driven by hidden demons and the living ghost of their not-quite-dead grandmother. Each lives in their own haunted world, but they care about each other and ponder over the strangeness and possible madness that surrounds and infuses them.

Despite (or because of) her troubled nature, Ruth gets a job in a museum that, far from relieving the weirdness of her life, seems to immerse her even deeper into herself and her oddly comforting torment. Events begin to spin out of control in school as Ruth defies ignorance and bigotry, and finds that the nail that sticks out, gets hammered. Or perhaps pulled out of the wood altogether, as the surreal and yet inevitable ending descends upon the proceedings.

You may or may not have heard of Nate Powell -- my first exposure was through his outstanding four-issue small press series Walkie Talkie, and he's only gotten better ever since. He started publishing through Top Shelf with Please Release, and Swallow Me Whole is further confirmation that Powell is one of our most thoughtful and boundary-expanding cartoonists. It's a lush, if shadowy world he creates for his characters to find themselves in, and for you to lose yourself in. Ultimately, Powell knows that the shadows can swallow us whole if we're not careful, and sometimes even if we are. The question this graphic novels seems to ask is, should we fight it, or surrender to the dark? I suspect there are as many answers to the question as there are people to consider it.


Buy Swallow Me Whole from Amazon.com.



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