Thursday, May 7, 2009

Elk's Run

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Elk's Run (Random House/Villard 2007).

A project hampered by publishing difficulties throughout its short life, Elk's Run was envisioned as an eight-issue series dealing with rising tensions in an isolated West Virginia community established by retired veterans in the 1970s. The completed project finally saw release as a graphic novel in 2007.

Joshua Hale Fialkov shows a fine flair for pacing and perspective. I enjoyed how each chapter attempts to show the community problem from different characters' POV. It's a story which, despite its real-world underpinnings, just wouldn't work very well in any other medium. It's an engaging story, with a hell of a climax. If Fialkov is guilty of anything, it's making his protagonist perhaps too sympathetic in the face of an unbelievably trenchant father and his foolish wife. Where the book really let me down, sadly, was the artwork by Noel Tuazon. I just didn't like this art at all and found it difficult to tell characters apart. Tuazon's use of color and storytelling shows that he knows what he's doing, but it's a shame he chose to work in such a disagreeable style.

Curiously, I was rereading this last week, just as the blowhards of talk radio had worked themselves into a fury over reports that the justice department was looking into connections between veterans and right-wing extremist violence. This isn't a book for them, then. Speaking purely in terms of fiction, there are some interesting similarities between this story and the Luna Brothers' tale of isolated rural horror, Girls. Perhaps if you enjoyed that, then Elk's Run might be the book for you. Tuazon's artwork prevents me from really recommending it very strongly though.

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