cover image New School

New School

Dash Shaw. Fantagraphics, $39.99 (340p) ISBN 978-1-60699-644-7

Shaw’s imaginative graphic novel is an unusual combination of bildungsroman, travelogue, and intellectual thriller. The narrator, Danny, is a precocious teenager whose older brother, Luke, is called away to work at a remote island theme park called Clockworld—a place whose cultish environment suggests Jonestown more strongly than Disneyland. When Danny arrives to “rescue” Luke, he is thrust into the alien world of the island nation of X, where Luke teaches English to the Xians who work at Clockworld. Danny is a naïf, whose conception of the world revolves only around his family, and his trip to X is his introduction to baser human impulses, which he begins to exhibit with relish. New School is sprawling and thematically disorganized, and it ultimately fails to fully deliver on its very grand ambitions. But Danny’s journey is still an exciting and amusing one, and Shaw’s big ideas are welcome and rewarding even if they are not entirely developed. The Sharpie-like lines and colorful swathes of paint that often overlay them make the novel feel like a sketchbook and give the story a spontaneous air while building on the style Shaw used on his previous books, Bodyworld and Bottomless Belly Button. (May)