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The Motherless Oven

Rob Davis. SelfMadeHero (Abrams, dist.), $19.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-906838-81-2

Scarper Lee is facing his death day in a world without birthdays where lives proceed in reverse. His dad is a metal leviathan on wheels, chained to the ground in the family’s garage; gods sing and scream throughout the house; and knives rain from the sky. Scarper does his best to stick to his schedule, even as his new schoolmate, Vera Pike, tries to shake up his routine. Scraper, Vera, and their pal Castro are pursued across the country by the law, in the form of an elderly couple riding around in some sort of horseless carriage, after Scraper’s father disappears. This is a weird story with a lot of potential, but Scarper and his heavy and moody eyebrows never make much of a connection with the reader. The art by Davis (Don Quixote) is well conceived, full of shadows and strange shapes, but the narrative feels like a fairly normal coming-of-age story that has had some strange visuals layered onto it. The last third is the best, when Scarper and the gang are on the run. Davis leaves room at the for a sequel; if there is one in the words, hopefully Davis will find a way in it to breathe more life into his surreal world. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/10/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Richard McGuire. Pantheon, $35 (304p) ISBN 978-0-375-40650-8

Expanding on an influential piece that first appeared in Raw in 1989, McGuire, best known for his illustrated children’s books, explores a single patch of land (apparently in Perth Amboy, N.J.) over the course of millions of years. As in the earlier version, McGuire’s perspective is fixed in what is (for most of the book) the corner of a family room, even as the narrative skips across centuries. At the beginning and end, dinosaurs and futuristic animals (respectively) stalk pages unadorned by people. But throughout most of the book, the reader sees human families dance, die, celebrate, fracture, and just live. A Native American couple makes out in the woods, people in 1980s garb pose for a portrait, a 24th-century team waves Geiger counters, a 1999 cat pads across the frame, and so on. The flat, hard lines produce art that looks like an approximation of Edward Hopper’s clean bright paintings, created on an outdated computer program. McGuire threads miniplots and knowing references through his hopscotch narrative, building up a head of steam that’s almost overwhelmingly poignant. His masterful sense of time and the power of the mundane makes this feel like the graphic novel equivalent of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/10/2014 | Details & Permalink

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