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Off Season

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  337 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Rage. Depression. Divorce. Politics. Love. A visceral story that you can see, taste, and feel.

How could this happen? The question of 2016 becomes deeply personal in James Sturm’s riveting graphic novel Off Season, which charts one couple’s divisive separation during Bernie Sanders’s loss to Hillary Clinton, Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, and the disorienting months that
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Drawn and Quarterly
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Average rating 3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  337 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Sam Quixote
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Mark is a contractor, father of two and estranged from his wife. In Off Season, we follow the trials and tribulations of being a father and the challenges of a working class man’s life in contemporary America. It’s set against the backdrop of the 2016 election though that’s incidental as it hasn’t got anything to do with anything. Ditto the fact that everyone’s drawn with animal heads.

Uh huh…? I really don’t know what the point of James Sturm’s latest comic was. I believe that it’s an accurate
David Schaafsma
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Off Season is a beautifully anguished story told with anthropomorphic animals about a man and woman with two kids who are separated, created by great comics teacher (who began the Center for Cartoon Studies) and artist in the heart of his career, and this is his most important and most personal/emotional work so far. Sturm is known for doing work for kids, works on historical figures and sports, and this is the first story like this from him that I have read.

The story gives us background on how
Rod Brown
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
The 2016 election of Donald Trump casts a pall over a marriage disintegrating under the weight of anger and depression. This oddly compelling domestic drama unfolds quickly with just two panels per page but captures the zeitgeist quite well. And despite the characters' dog heads, their humanity is quite evident.

Trigger warning: MAGA hat.
Chihoe Ho
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I wanted to hate Off Season off the bat as I thought that the backdrop of the 2016 US Elections was gimmicky and coloured commentary, but as the story went on, it actually felt like the right use and wasn't as big a focus as the beginning indicated.

Self-awareness ("using animals as human stand-ins is as old as storytelling" when the characters are all anthropomorphic), nuggets of wisdom ("maybe two people liking something for different reasons is only a fight that hasn't happened yet" in the
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This graphic novel shows a family of four (they are drawn as dogs but otherwise sure seem very human-like.) Lisa, the wife and mom, has moved out. After the election she has been shaken to the core and is rethinking a lot of things including her marriage. The story is told from the POV of the husband/dad. He works as a carpenter for a jerk who lies about work and paying him on time, his kids Suzie and Jeremy act out, and Lisa is alternately angry, withholding, and there are moments of ...more
Jul 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Sparse, dreary, and terrible.
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it

“Maybe two people liking something for different reasons is only a fight that hasn’t happened yet.”

Strangely enough this happens to be the second graphic novel of 2019 that I have come across within the last 24 hours which has beasts as people. It's a curious enough technique and when done right it can be a provocative way of allowing us to see otherwise mundane people and settings in a new light.

With subjects of depression, anxiety, divorce and Trump this is certainly no rib tickler of a
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Off Season, Mark narrates his daily struggles with his two kids, his soon-to-be-ex-wife Lisa, his somewhat dysfunctional family, and his irresponsible/uncaring boss against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential elections. In seemingly very little space, and stark, gray-toned panels, Mark's whole life unravels as he examines his anger, his failures, and the injustices others have inflicted on him. He recognizes that his anger and resentment are not just forgotten, but brewing inside as he goes ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story is told in frames that are split between the protagonist’s thoughts on the top and the story below. He reflects on the action or discusses memories or narrates along. It was an interesting way of deepening the experience of the storytelling. Oh… did I mention the character’s are drawn as dogs? Yeah. I’m doing some thinking about that. Asking myself, why?

My heart was beating pretty hard while reading Off Season. Not because of the action on the page, but because of the tension built
Matthew Noe
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Melancholy and rage, in panel form.

Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Really enjoyed the story-telling and the drawings but was dissatisfied with the overall lack of story or ending. It had like a peak point or crux where there was an emotional high and I was very engaged with what was happening and all the characters, but seemed to fall off at the end, almost like it wasn't finished, or..I understand that this story is one that's still being told and is ongoing given that this horrible man is still president, but it didn't make for a fully satisfying read sadly. ...more
Dakota Morgan
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Off Season is the kind of book you finish reading and exhale hard: "Ooooof"

Mark's marriage is falling apart, his contractor boss isn't paying him, and his two young kids are a lot to handle. In cold, black-and-white panels, James Sturm illustrates a year in Mark's life, from one downer moment to the next. It's artfully done and never less than fascinating, but it does not leave you with a good feeling. In fact, it's safe to say that Off Season is going to leave you with a bad feeling.

Sara Woodbury
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book deserves wider attention, including a cover image on this social networking site and more copies in libraries. Strum’s drawings capture the emotions of the narrator in his roles of father, estranged husband, employee, and son during and after the 2016 presidential election outcome. Billed as a love story of our times, it offers a glimpse into the mind and life of a man who seems to question his own political leanings after his boss cheats him just as he is embarking on single ...more
Jul 03, 2019 added it
Shelves: graphic-novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Schlatter
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
Three observations:

1) My previous exposure to James Sturm has been through his fiction comics with a historical setting (e.g., early twentieth century Europe in Market Day or nineteenth century America in Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight), so seeing a graphic novel set in 2016 middle America was a bit of a switch. So also was his use of anthropomorphic characters (ala Maus). It's effective cartooning, with an unchanging grid of two panels per page, but not quite what I was expecting.

2) I saw a
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
James Sturm does a lot right in Off Season. The primary thrust of the story follows Mark, a carpenter, as he copes with his impending divorce from Lisa and figures out how to handle their two kids on his end of their shared custody. The emotional beats, particularly the way small (and one very large) frustrations pile up, are handled with real sensitivity, and Sturm imbues the characters with plenty of emotive heft. Off Season does have a couple bits that didn't entirely work for me - the ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was an unsettling story, and it sort of gave me insight into the "Bernie Bros" who didn't get over the 2016 Democratic primary process but it didn't make me care. Maybe because of my personal political persuasion and positions, I just couldn't get beyond frustration with the protagonist Mark and the rigid self-centeredness of his perspective. I had sympathy for him to an extent, but another part of me was, like, "dude, get over your damn self -- there is more at stake to this world, to your ...more
Tom Hill
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, graphic-novel
"Maybe two people liking something for different reasons is only a fight that hasn't happened yet."

This is moving exploration of anger during the 2016 election, but it's not a broad, sweeping story of national events, it's a more personal story about the anger that led to Trump's victory, and the anger and helplessness people felt and still feel in its aftermath. It's a story about one family, and the election exists kind of adjacent to the main story. More than one factor led to the 2016
Aug 30, 2019 added it
I saw this at the library, and read the back cover, which included a mention of masculinity.

The book immediately starts with a mention of the 2016 election, and knocked me a bit back. I do think this books examines masculinity. There is some mention of class, but not as much. The main character hits all the demographic markers that it should. Part of me questions whether Sturm is the correct person to write a book like this. Is this authentic, or a person's guess of the struggles that white
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best graphic novels I have read in a long, long time! Sturm brilliantly captures the anger, frustration, confusion, and pain so many of us felt (& possibly are still feeling) following that awful night of November 8, 2016. His expressive B&W drawings act as a perfect stand-in for those dark days following that election. Call me a triggered snowflake, but I nearly lost it when Mark's father happily placed his other son's Christmas gift on his head...a "Make America Great Again" ...more
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Mark, a construction worker who wanted Bernie to win the election, struggles through day-to-day life with his newly divorced ex-wife and two children.

This is an odd graphic novel. There's no large overarching theme. There's not much story development. What there is, though, is hard to put down. This is actual life. It's not pretty, and it's not exciting, and many times it's depressing. Some times you wonder what makes the main character act that way - it's not logical. But neither is life. I'm
Matthew Holley
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ooof. A lot of shit going down here. All in gray tones, and the human characters all DOGS (interesting) and an ending that hinges on the hope of...microdosing?
I’d heard some great things about this, and while I appreciate the honest approach to relationships and family and parenting and finances (etc) I have to say that it ended a bit too abruptly for me, and in a far too ambiguous way.
3.5 stars
Jason Downey
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comic
Ooh, this was really, really good.

This is a story about the unrelenting pressures and stresses of rural American life that slowly change people from who they thought they were. About how nearly impossible it is to get over that anger once it engulf you. That story with 2016 politics as a backdrop creates a certain atmosphere that I haven’t seen in any other fiction about Trump’s America. It’s a great piece of art
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019, comics
The split that threaten to break one's man heart is one that goes through a family, through a love relationship and through society as a whole. Life can be challenging and hard and nothing's gonna soften it but carrying on. All in all: an excellent read for grown-ups.

It's a shame we only get new work by Sturm once or twice per decade. This man is a master of the medium. Already a strong contender for best comic of 2019.
Christa Van
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Fairly bleak, this graphic novel features a family falling apart. Single dad struggling to find consistent work that pays and deal with his 2 kids on his own when he has them. He is in some shock that he and his wife separated, he is concerned about the outcome of the 2016 election. A die-hard Bernie supporter, he didn't find the passion for Hillary once Bernie dropped out. Now everything in his life is a bit gray just like the illustrations in this book. A little slice of life.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quietly drawn, moving and subtle comic about one couple's disintegrating relationship against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential elections. Sturm is really gifted at capturing complex interpersonal dynamics and a full range of emotions in just a few panels. I understand other folks' disappointment at the somewhat abrupt ending, but it didn't bother me that much. The drawings are just beautiful. Highly recommended.
Reflective, illustrated vignettes portray the magic first communion of romantic love and the chaos that ensues when that bond is no longer enough to hold a family together. Strum touches on working class resentment, the challenges of fathering sensitive children, and the shock of anger after love, all from a male perspective often missing from writings about family.
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is some open up and let it all hang out so to speak kinda stuff,
and it is some real gut-punching stuff too.
Bravo to this brave writer artist for sharing this with the world
and yeah,
he really has a gift in the way he is able to tell his stories.

"Maybe two people liking something for different reasons is only a fight that hasn't happened yet."

Graphic novel about a marriage that is disintegrating around the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
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James Sturm is the author of several award-winning graphic novels for children and adults, including James Sturm’s America, Market Day, The Golem’s Mighty Swing and Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow. He is also the founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies and the National Association for Comics Art Educators. He created Adventures in Cartooning with collaborators Alexis Frederic-Frost and ...more
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