Bald Knobber

Robert Sergel. Secret Acres, $15.95 (80p) ISBN 978-0-9991935-1-8
Sergel (Space) returns to the theme of confused adolescence in this entertaining graphic novella, presented in precise, high-contrast black-and-white drawings. The trouble begins with middle schooler Cole reading aloud to his classroom from his report on the Bald Knobbers, gangs of masked men who dispensed vigilante justice in 1880s Missouri. An impressionable sort, Cole reveals his admiration: “They were kind of like comic book heroes.” His report continues as background narration for Cole’s outside-the-classroom activity: donning a homemade Bald Knobber mask to mete out his own brand of petty vengeance against perceived enemies, which include his divorcing parents, a school bully, and his mother’s new boyfriend. (Cole empties used cat litter into the boyfriend’s cereal box.) Not unexpectedly, Cole’s acting out results in much conflict, and justice is not served. Though the true extent of his transgressions is left ambiguous, the story ends with the suggestion that any lessons Cole may have learned are not necessarily taken deeply to heart: “Everyone tried to be more civil... because they had to be.” Sergel’s visuals skillfully juxtapose the heated emotions of the story with the posed, deadpan quality of his characters, loading this snappy, pocket-sized parable with equal amounts of drollery and poignancy—and just a touch of menace. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 10/01/2018
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