Same Difference and Other Stories

Derek Kirk Kim, Author
Derek Kirk Kim, Author Alternative Comics $12 (139p) ISBN 978-1-891867-48-4
Reviewed on: 07/01/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Paperback - 139 pages - 978-1-891830-57-0
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This promising collection brings together stories Kim produced for a variety of sources. The earliest, a vignette written in 1997-8, appeared in a Xeroxed mini-comic; the title novella has just finished being serialized on Kim's Web site. There's little self-indulgent apprentice work here, though. Although Kim has chosen to work apart from the mainstream, his stories are surprisingly accessible, with hardly any outright surrealism or defiant offensiveness. Many of the characters are, like the author, young Korean-Americans, but that doesn't necessarily limit their interest; conversely, it adds another layer to their standard YA alienation. Kim moves past the most easily exploitable teenage concern (sex) to show realistically and sympathetically how awkward young people can feel without a secure place in society, certainty about how to behave around other people, or a sense of what their future holds. He convinces readers that his character are more than whining slackers. The best of these stories work in understated, Raymond Carver territory. In the title novella, for example, a bored young man and woman take a short trip during which very little overt drama occurs-but they do begin to come to terms with past actions of which they're ashamed, share friendship, and generally establish themselves as worthwhile human beings. Kim has a good sense of dialogue and design; even conversation-packed panels are lively and rewarding. He also knows when to pull back from his characters and let the universe ebb and flow around them.
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