Wednesday, 13 June 2012

So I Read The Death-Ray

A 250 word (or less) review of The Death-Ray Graphic Novel
By Daniel Clowes, Drawn and Quarterly

The Death-Ray interiors, Daniel Clowes

The Death-Ray, by Daniel Clowes, is the first super-literary-indy comic I’ve ever read. Going into it I had some preconceptions and about this genre: I expected The Death-Ray to be very well written, artistically distinct, and at least a little bit depressing. So bear that in mind. The story of The Death-Ray follows Andy, a high-school aged orphan living with his elderly grandfather who discovers that he gains superpowers from cigarettes and that he has inherited a Death Ray pistol that erases objects from existence. Under the guidance of his friend Louie, Andy takes up costumed vigilantism and misadventures ensue. To a certain extent the Death-Ray takes familiar comic book tropes, most borrowed directly from the story of Spider-Man, and grounds them in reality to deconstruct the ideal of superhero comics. Clowes expertly goes about showing how empty the escapist fantasy of superheroes is by detailing the continuing unpopularity of the protagonist, the pathetic vigilantism of his hero, and a gradual slide into sociopathic behavior governed by a misplaced sense of power and responsibility. The artwork, which is objectively pretty great, breaks the story into separate retro comic strips, subtley tweaking the narration approaches, pencil styles, and colour palettes between sections. This provides a nostalgic visual feel to the book, which enhances the dissonance between the expectations of the superhero genre and the modern, realistic events portrayed within. So, overall I found The Death-Ray very well written, artistically distinct, and a little bit depressing. If you’re inclined, check it out.

Word count: 250

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