cover image The Death Ray

The Death Ray

Daniel Clowes. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-77046-051-5

With great power comes great ambivalence—if you’re a going-nowhere teen in a dusty suburb with one friend, two dead parents, a girlfriend who is little more than an idealized pen pal and all the other trappings of a dismal life. That’s Andy, a schlubby 17-year-old who spends time with his best pal, Louie, hanging around the edges of their high school’s social set. When the day comes, as it must for all misfits, when Andy smokes a cigarette for the first time, in superhero fashion he learns his scientist father injected him with experimental hormones, giving him superpowers—and a death ray that makes people disappear forever without a trace. Andy understands that his powers give him some kind of moral imperative (“I feel I have to do my part, however small, to help out humanity, or at least the good, decent members of society”), but his heroic ideals don’t prove up to overcoming his smalltime jealousies. Andy doesn’t do terrible things with his powers, just sad, petty things—until one dark day. Clowes’s cartooning ability has never been better than in this story, originally published in 2004 and presented in a hardcover edition—crosscutting past and present, using monologues and fractured action to tell the ultimate unsuperhero story. (Oct.)