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The Death-Ray
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The Death-Ray

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,139 ratings  ·  165 reviews
ON TIME, NPR AND USA TODAY'S BEST-OF 2011 LISTS! WINNER OF THE EISNER, HARVEY AND IGNATZ AWARDS

Teen outcast Andy is an orphaned nobody with only one friend, the obnoxious—but loyal—Louie. They roam school halls and city streets, invisible to everyone but bullies and tormentors, until the glorious day when Andy takes his first puff on a cigarette. That night he wakes, heart...more
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published June 2004)
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Watchmen by Alan MooreThe Complete Maus by Art SpiegelmanV for Vendetta by Alan MooreThe Sandman, Vol. 1 by Neil GaimanThe Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Best Graphic Novels
469th out of 1,774 books — 4,119 voters
Ghost World by Daniel ClowesLike a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Daniel ClowesWilson by Daniel ClowesDavid Boring by Daniel ClowesCaricature by Daniel Clowes
The Best of Daniel Clowes
7th out of 9 books — 9 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Forrest
I found The Death-Ray intriguing in its main conceit, compelling in its design, and frustrating in its hipster aloofness. I'll spare the plot outline (see the summation under the book's description on goodreads - it's adequate enough) and only say that the main superhero tropes are old enough and trite enough to just be acceptable at face value by anyone who has even a passing knowledge of the superhero genre. And perhaps it's this blase acceptance of the fantastic that led me, ultimately, to fe...more
Anthony Vacca
A familiar story of male adolescence: you are an unpopular, scrawny-bodied teenager with only one (equally unpopular) friend and a long-distance girlfriend, named Dusty, with whom you maintain a chaste, unfulfilling pen-pal relationship; you sleep and sweat through hot and heavy dreams about the middle-aged, granny-glasses wearing black woman who takes care of the withering grandfather who raised you; you feel a restless sense of purpose - or maybe even destiny - that is strangled by the vacuity...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It was just a month or two ago that I was reviewing Daniel Clowes' Mister Wonderful, lamenting that little wisp of a story and declaring how much I was looking forward instead to his next major masterpiece; and now it's here, in the form of a giant oversized hardback called The Death-Ray, although with "ne...more
Son of Sam Quixote
Meet Andy, a quiet, lonely boy growing up in the 70s who has one friend and is being raised by his grandfather who is likely developing Alzheimer’s. One day by chance Andy smokes a cigarette and discovers that nicotine activates “super powers” where he gains super strength. Couple that with his father’s legacy leaving Andy a handheld “death ray” once he realises his super powers, and Andy goes from being an awkward teen to having the power of life and death in the palm of his hand.

Andy is your...more
Mark Desrosiers
The plot here begs for ridicule: an orphaned boy discovers that his father had performed genetic experiments which cause him to acquire superhuman strength and rage when he smokes tobacco. Also, there is a death ray involved, which only he can use. In Clowes' hand, this goofy premise takes on an eerie, evocative quality, with brief (dreamed?) snatches of sex to spice up this virgin superhero's saga. And you can probably guess how tedious and grim his love life becomes, how middle age shapes him...more
Nick Kives
There will always be a place on my bookshelf for a Clowes book. When the movie for Ghost World came out, I loved it and immediately went out to find the book for it, and loved that as well. It was the first comic I had picked up in years, and would be the only until after Katrina. Unfortunatly, I haven't felt the same way in the last two books. This one is better than David Boring but still not up there.
Erika
Purely an emotional rating. It would have been another start if I had been on some kind of drug while I read it. I only have to quote one thing to sum up this book:

"You try to make the world a better place and what does it get you? I mean, Christ, how the hell does one man stand a chance against four billion assholes."

Fun read.
D.M.
I've been enjoy Clowes for quite a few years now, and his output seems to have increased in frequency and quality over the past decade or so. Unfortunately, my income hasn't kept up, so I've missed his last couple books. It was with great pleasure, then, that I found this one at my library!
That Clowes has, after all this time, decided to do his own take on superpowers is surprising. He does it almost exactly how one would expect him to: the superpowers make bad people worse, and good people bett...more
Jordan
BAM! BOOM! KA-POW! SPOILERS??? MAYBE!

Daniel Clowes takes on The Superhero. That is what this is.

In The Death-Ray, he gives us the classic origin story (or at least his version of it), where we have present day, regular citizen, old Andy retelling the account of his life from discovering and understanding his new power, to dealing with the complications of it, to Clowes taking us all the way to the probable cause of his anti-hero’s ultimate death.

Yeah, Andy's dad and mom were scientists who are...more
Peter Derk
Daniel Clowes does some weird stuff. I don't know how someone who doesn't read a lot of comics would take it. Maybe it would be easier because you don't have all these ideas about capes and underpants and muscles and stuff. On the other hand, maybe someone who doesn't read a lot of comics would find his stuff just completely bizarre. I just don't know how integral it is to read some comics before really getting into his stuff.

That said, I read this one in the middle of the Museum of Contemporary...more
Andy
It's no coincidence that Daniel Clowes designed the poster for Todd Solondz's film "Happiness". Like Solondz, Clowes has made his mark depicting people that are ugly and socially constricted. The Death Ray's no exception, and it's unfortunately just as bad as his previous work Mr. Wonderful.

The misanthropy in this book is sludgy to the point of crushing. At least in Wilson there was some humor to temper the pithiness of the main character. There's nothing here, just the rantings of an angry, se...more
Verevoof
Daniel Clowes' The Death-Ray won multiple awards but I don't understand why. Perhaps I put too much faith in The I.T. Crowd's set designers, seeing Jim Woodring and Maakies items appearing on desks and walls along with a poster of The Death-Ray reminding me I should read it every time I queue up another episode. Don't get me wrong, Clowes is a great artist and knows how to arrange a page, but story-wise the book is lacking. Borrow it from the library like I did.
Sarah
You know, every time I go to pick up a Daniel Clowes book I think to myself "Maybe this time it will not be an incomprehensible pretentious mess". And every time I'm disappointed. Where to start? This book doesn't have a plot. It has a string of semi-cogent moments, self-referential diatribes, time skips, and characters that frankly all kinda look the same. Story lines with certain characters are dropped like hotcakes (whatever happened with the grandpa) and sometimes you're not really sure what...more
Richard
I’m not sure what the point was for this. Daniel Clowes is a good artist - his drawings are deceptively simple, but often expertly arranged - and the story is sort of well-constructed. I appreciate that it must have taken a lot of effort to create, but there’s really nothing in this graphic novel that grabbed me – nothing to make me care much about the story (the overdone comic about comics trope of “hey, what would actually happen if a “real”, flawed person gained super human powers?”), the cha...more
Andy
I'm giving this four stars right now and may give it five after another read-through. What looks, from the cover, like a fun science fiction send-off is anything but that. I'd never previously read Clowes, so I didn't know what to expect. Again, I hope to read this again in a few days to delve into all the layers Clowes has placed in this complex story - then I'll be able to decide (hopefully) whether this is convoluted or genius. (I suspect the latter.)
Sara Habein
A sad and lovely tale, submerged in loneliness and alienation. It's a thoughtful story that also explores desire and the fronts one puts on when out in the world. It's also a story of consequence, and I enjoyed it immensely.

(My full review can be found on Glorified Love Letters.)
James Payne
Somewhat bleak; its Bush-era paradigm is like an old friend I never see around, don't miss, but viscerally feel every particular of. D&Q republishing this in hardcover feels quasi-money grab. Seems to articulate philosophical issues re: power + ethics/morality well. Leaves me all Rorty.
Jennifer Haight
As cringe-worthy as it is revolutionary, Daniel Clowe's work is a peek into the deepest, darkest reaches of the every-man's soul. His drawing is crisp, linear and stark, he is a master craftsman.

The story itself clunks with scene changes sometimes in Andy's mind, sometimes his reality. Andy is in middle age, in dream state, as a teen. He feels like he is victimized by bullies and ex-wives and yet he as a "hero" victimizes others.

This is a graphic novel for adults and for adults who want to be...more
Derek
What a bizarre coming-of-age, over-the-top story/satire. The concept is both amusing and disturbing. Compared to other Clowes works, I enjoyed this one just slightly more than Ghost World. He is a master of color and layout. I love that this is a gorgeous coffee table book, which begs to question whether or not this is an author's desparate attempt to be recognized as a home staple and in plain sight, rather than collecting dust on a book shelf. The only problem that I find is that I tire of his...more
Sycobabel
Clowes always hits the spot.
joao
Read Eightball #23, not the latest graphic novel edition. I found this very toned down when compared to other works like Wilson (downright sad), Like a Velvet Glove.. (eerie), or Mr. Wonderful (oftentimes pathetic). All those adjectives are true about The Death-Ray, but the interplay among those aspects means you get a 'balanced' Clowes, if you're into that sort of thing. In further superhero trope relativism, you'll even get to choose your favorite ending. I guess the outline here is pessimisti...more
pierlapo  quimby
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Scott Smith
Don’t have much to say about this one. What can I do but appreciate Daniel Clowes? Reading and looking at his stories gives me access to the world of these characters which is a place where there is a gap between how the story is presented and how I’m supposed to feel reading it, which is a breath of real, and in this story is only slightly hallucinatory as opposed to the last book I read of his ‘Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron’ (or maybe it was ‘Wilson’, I read them both close together). Anywa...more
Leew49
Daniel Clowes turns his unique perspective on the superhero comic in "The Death Ray," the story of Andy, a disaffected teenager who acquires super powers and then has no idea of how to use them intelligently. Many of the recurrent themes of Clowes's other works are found here: alienation, the outsider who sees the hypocrisy of social conventions but can't discover anything better, pointless crushes, friends drifting apart (rather dramatically in the case of Andy's "best friend" Louie), confused...more
Melanie
I want to say that this GN was nothing overly special, but it hit me on such a personal level that I wanted to write a few things down.

It's a story of two friends. One is outgoing, outspoken and opinionated. The other is quiet, shy and for all intents and purposes, he's the side-kick. This arrangement works for them.

So what happens when it's the side-kick that gets the super powers? What happens when the death ray can only be operated by him and him alone? What happens when he grows up a bit and...more
Kathryn
Daniel Clowes's attempt at a superhero story comes with his usual visual flare, non-linear sequencing and darkly comic view of humanity. Andy is a geeky, but seemingly normal teenage boy who befriends a misanthropic punk named Louie. Louie's jaded worldview and penchant for cigarettes rubs off on straight-laced Andy who unknowingly releases a dormant gene that gives him superhuman strength. Along with his new nicotine-activated superpower comes a late gift from his dead father - a death-ray gun....more
Scwoolf
I was pleasantly surprised by this book, in part because, for me, the work of Daniel Clowes generally falls into one of two categories: (1) very well written-and-illustrated coming-of-age stories (Ghost World, Wilson, Mr. Wonderful) or (2) surrealist fiction (Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, David Boring). This book is a little bit of both. Like most of Clowes work, it is quite thought-provoking, but what I like about this particular story is that its subject matter - superheroes and superpowers - are...more
Eric T. Voigt
Vengeance is not sweet to look upon. It's confusing. Confusion-borne. It's all up in this book. Disappointment. Feelings about truth and right-and-wrong. Who has the power to decide how the world should be run if not ourselves? We are the only ones living our life. It is only our world, in the truest sense in our minds, although it is shared by everyone else, in a slightly different, personal way, in their minds, too. Great 'graphic novel.' My aunt asked what I was reading and I said 'a comic.'...more
Oliver Hodson
I like the intrigue of a character that has a pregnant humanity. Pity the character is giving birth to an aborted manhood and destructive thoughts. I like that it is not simplistic or closed, and in some way just completely and maddeningly believable. Death Ray sort of got some understanding in the end, and sort of limited himself to a lessened level of destruction, without reaching any positive manifsstation of himself.
Guilherme Trindade
I knew Daniel Clowes from Ghost World and the recent Shia debacle plagiarizing Justin M. Damiano. I was very pleased to read this unorthodox comic book that follows a non-traditional structure that sort of makes you fill in the blanks.

Shows how graphic novels can tell all sorts of stories in all sorts of styles. Truly an auteur with his own unique voice.
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Daniel Gillespie Clowes is an Academy Award-nominated American author, screenwriter and cartoonist of alternative comic books. Most of Clowes' work appears first in his ongoing anthology Eightball (1989-present), a collection of self-contained narratives and serialized graphic novels. Several of these narratives have been collected published separately as graphic novels, most notably Ghost World....more
More about Daniel Clowes...
Ghost World David Boring Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron Wilson Ice Haven

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“You try to make the world a better place and what does it get you? I mean, Christ, how the hell does one man stand a chance against four billion assholes?” 3 likes
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