BOX OFFICE POISON

Alex Robinson, Author
Alex Robinson, Author . Top Shelf $29.95 (608p) ISBN 1-891830-19-8
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Winner of an Eisner award, Robinson's first book is a graphic novel whose very size qualifies it as epic. Luckily, the story involves more detail than density. Like any good novel, it is preoccupied with character—specifically, the ways in which people and relationships evolve over time. Much like Michael Chabon in Kavalier & Clay, Robinson uses the comics industry—especially the "golden age" (the beginnings of the comic book industry in the late 1930s)—as a platform from which to explore both his characters and the prevailing culture. The main personages include Sherman, a wannabe writer stuck in a dead-end bookstore job, and his college pal Ed, a budding comic book artist still looking to get laid for the first time. There are also Jane and Stephen, Sherman's negligent Brooklyn housemates; Dorothy, Sherman's hard-drinking, chain-smoking, misanthropic girlfriend; and Irving Flavor, a crusty septuagenarian and veteran graphic novelist, who was forced to signed away the rights to a popular (and lucrative) superhero character he created back in the golden age of comics. Drawn in a cartoonish but nuanced graphic style that manages to balance both hilarity and emotional depth, the characters come to life in a series of interconnected chapters that cut back and forth in time. This novel supplies both visual wit and dramatic honesty, from the slow dissolution of trust between Sherman and Dorothy to Flavor's naïve betrayal of Ed late in the story. This is a convincing, absorbing and satisfying fictional portrait of post-college life in mid-1990s New York City. (Nov.)

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