Authors: Tom & Nimue Brown
Illustrator: Tom Brown
Hopeless, Maine, vol. 1
My rating: 3.5 of 5
Hopeless . . . both a place and a state of being on this cursed island off the coast of Maine. It is a place where the sun never shines, a place that invites demons–both metaphorical and actual. Salamandra is found alone (apart from the creepies) in a huge gothic house. Not a place to leave a child, so she is brought to an orphanage where she fits in not one bit. In her friendless state, she is approached by a smiling girl . . . whom no one else can see.
Personal Demons is not your typical graphic novel, that’s for sure. It’s more atmospheric rather than action oriented. And the atmosphere is done brilliantly. The whole setting is this eerie, dark gothic island inhabited not just by people but by all sorts of oddities that appear inspired by Hieronymus Bosch himself. The art is beautiful but atypical. (I believe this started as a webcomic, and there’s the freedom and individuality of style to this graphic novel that you would expect in a high-quality webcomic.) It’s done almost entirely in a dark monochromatic palette, barring a few flashes of brilliant color to emphasize the presence of magic (and yes, there’s definitely magic in this story). For the art, the concept, and the actualization of the concept I would have to give this book a 5 out of 5 rating. Where it fell flat for me, personally, was in the story itself. I didn’t fall in love with the characters, and the plot was not particularly original . . . thus the 3.5 instead of 5 stars. Still, Personal Demons is definitely an interesting graphic novel if only for the originality of the concept and the art–well worth giving it a try.
Author: Psuedonymous Bosch
Illustrator: Gilbert Ford
Actually, it’s not just the name of this book that’s secret; the entire book itself is secret. In fact, you really shouldn’t read it at all, or so says the anonymous narrator. In this story, a couple of eleven-year-old kids–a boy who tells not-funny jokes and talks too much and a girl who’s a survivalist and cries disaster too often–encounter a secret which leads them into true danger and looming disaster. Only their growing collaboration and unique skills will enable them to survive and rescue their classmate. We can only hope that is enough.
So. I enjoyed The Name of This Book is Secret to an extent, but I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I didn’t already love the works of Lemony Snicket. Because this book feels altogether too much like it’s trying to imitate the style of Lemony Snicket–just without all the parts I love most, like the highly individual characters and the individual author’s unique attitude and style. Everything about The Name of This Book is Secret is so very intentionally disguised–to increase the impression of danger–that it loses a lot of potential personality. On the plus side, I really did enjoy seeing synesthesia–a real and fascinating medical condition–being used as a plot device. There were several other interesting allusions to history, culture, entertainment, etc.–it’s just that they’re so mixed up together that it’s difficult to really appreciate them. The Name of This Book is Secret gets three out of five stars in my opinion; I don’t regret reading it, but I probably won’t read it again.
Note: The allusion of the author’s “name” to the not-particularly-well-known artist Hieronymus Bosch (known for busy and super-creepy paintings) is sort of interesting, I must admit.