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By Mark Kneece and Julie Collins-Rousseau
Published by NBM; $17.95 USD

Kneece and Collins-Rosseau make Trailers a highly readable entertainment despite the fact that the central conceit -- an horrific crime committed by the lead character's mother that continuously threatens to burst into scrutiny despite efforts by him to cover it up -- is never really very convincing.

The crime isn't the point of the story, though, it's merely the MacGuffin upon which hangs the true theme of the work. Josh Clayton has lived all his life in a trailer, and is deeply ashamed of his mother, his upbringing, and by association, himself. Possible redemption offers itself up through a meet-not-quite-cute with a fellow high school student. Michelle is a pretty girl from a higher social rung who, it turns out, will not be manipulated by her peers and their damning mockery of Clayton. Michelle, in fact, is a key element in the pleasure I took in reading the story -- she may be a little more sophisticated at navigating teenage (and later, adult) life's stormy's waters than most girls her age, but she is presented as so fully-real a character that I was won over by her, and by her efforts at reaching the seething pain inside Josh. The best scenes in the novel occur between these two.

The worst take place around the previously-mentioned crime committed by Josh's mother. The crime itself is believable enough, but Josh comes off as too grounded and decent to allow the cover-up to go on as long as he does. So one's immersion in this story of his transformation from child to man largely hinges on one's willingness to accept some pretty unbelievable scenes including a Tell Tale Heart-like finger refusing to stay buried and a couple of hillbillies playing sport by shooting birdshot into a bloated corpse. It's not that I don't think these things could happen,it's just that I wasn't convinced by the depiction of some of the more extreme aspects of this particular story. Where Kneece and Collins-Rousseau stick to more familiar emotions and events, though, the tale rings mostly true.

Collins-Rousseau gets a good deal of credit for her convincing visual creation of the world these characters inhabit. She has an approach similar to Alex Robinson, if he was, say, inked by Journey-era William Messner-Loebs. There's a powerful sense of place, especially in the scenes of lower-class misery like the inside of Josh's family's trailer, or the parking lot of the convenience store where the local hookers ply their trade.

I'm leery of dramatic fiction in slice-of-life graphic novels. Failure always seems to be a page-turn away, if it even takes that long, and even the most ambitious of works (like the recent Fantagraphics release The Night Fisher, or NBM's own recent North Country) can leave me surprisingly cold. Trailers works as both a piece of entertainment, and an exploration of what sorts of stories are possible in the comics artform. Its reach exceeds its grasp, but only by a little, and ultimately I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and by how well many parts of it succeeded in keeping me turning the pages, all the way to the end. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane

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The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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