For his fourth graphic novel, Dash Shaw has created a graphic novel whose reading experience is genre-blending and participatory. Bodyworld endeavorsFor his fourth graphic novel, Dash Shaw has created a graphic novel whose reading experience is genre-blending and participatory. Bodyworld endeavors to absorb the reader in its disorienting tale by its very design: the book is laid out to be read vertically, turning pages from bottom to top, rather than right to left. Chapter beginnings refer to maps on both inside covers. The plot and story devices are just as demanding of the reader’s attention. The story involves several characters in an idyllic suburban town that undergoes mind-altering changes when a sleazy (yet sympathetic) stranger introduces the natives to a hallucinogenic plant he discovered on the school’s campus. Psychedelic, layered drawings express the drug’s telekinetic effects as characters shift into one another’s minds and the plot builds to a frenzied climax. Narrative viewpoints change frequently, and the book includes elements of science fiction, high school drama and detective mystery. Among all of these special effects, Shaw develops a truly fascinating tale full of interesting characters.
Reading Fun Home feels like a scavenger hunt through someone else’s diary. In Alison Bechdel’s memoir in graphic novel form, she skillfully illustrateReading Fun Home feels like a scavenger hunt through someone else’s diary. In Alison Bechdel’s memoir in graphic novel form, she skillfully illustrates setting through both text and image. Myriad cultural and literary allusions assist movement and characterization “not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms.” Detailed drawings include myriad literary and cultural references, and abound with ephemera: newspaper front pages, handwritten margin notes in dog-eared books, phone messages, dictionary definitions, field guides, maps, product labels, photographs, and letters. Fun Home rings with honesty as Bechdel vividly recounts childhood experiences with wry humor and perspective, but never nostalgia. Witty, telling dialogue between Alison, her family and friends punctuates her often poetic narration. Both expertly depict the complicated relationship between Alison and her father, a high school English teacher with a passion for heavy literature and gothic interior design and restoration. Alison discovers he is a closeted homosexual when she comes out to her parents during college, an event that both clarifies and confuses their distant connection. The combination of Bechdel’s frank and likeable tone and expert illustration lead the reader irresistibly from one frame to the next as she pieces together the memories and people that influenced her identity.