October 9, 2007
CR Review: Joseph
Drawn & Quarterly, Petits Livres, soft cover, 64 pages, September 2007, $9.95
This is a lovely little comic, a short foray into a child's memories and concerns that may pierce into your heart for the specificity of memories it recalls and the general underpinnings in regards to present-day sadnesses it invokes. A small boy with oversized hands, or at least imagined-to-be-oversized hands, longs for a caring father and a supportive group of friends and some level of competency in the activities he pursue. He doesn't achieve many of his goals, and the victories he does enjoy are short-lived. The factors lifting this out of a lifeless mopefest are the quality of Robel's visual imagination (the book looks nice), the way in which perspectives careen all over the map but always manage to convey mood or story in doing so, and the sense of humor that informs the bleak themes -- the book ends on a physical gag, of all things.
If there's anything to complain about it with Joseph
it might be that the strongest moments are individual ones, set pieces found within the narrative rather than a more significant and last effect wrought by the story entire. I know that my memory fails when I try to recall the story's sweep, but scenes where the kid wreaks (what one would guess to be) imaginary havoc on a playground, and a touching panel where he embraces a tree, those will linger. Others may point to price point slightly out of current favor, an admission cost that doesn't seem as fair in a time when twice the money buys you a hardcover of three times the thickness, and half the money snares you a similarly formatted book from a lot of other publishers. I think it's the former that worries me more than the latter -- consumer math only takes you so far when it's art and not appliances you're buying. I'd pay this much every time if it guaranteed a book this good, and if it found narrative cohesion to match its high points I'd pay any price you could name.
posted 9:00 pm PST
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