Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 98 (5/12) -- Night Fisher by R. Kikuo Johnson

Little-known books from five years ago are the Shrodinger's Boxes of publishing -- they could be wonderful or tedious, justly ignored or shockingly forgotten. So every reader gets to be her own critic, to discover what's good or bad in a book like that without any preconceptions.

Night Fisher was the first graphic novel by R. Kikuo Johnson; Fantagraphics published in in 2005. Johnson has a website, but it hasn't been updated since 2007, and there's no sign that a second book, or any other comics work, has appeared since that point. (He did have a few stories in the anthology Mome between 2005 and 2007, but I haven't been able to find anything since.) So Night Fisher -- at least at this moment -- stands completely alone; it's Johnson's sole book and the primary record of his comics career to date.

Even if Night Fisher was seriously flawed, that would be disappointing -- we all want to see creators succeed, to get better and move forward with their careers. And, since Night Fisher is actually a very accomplished and thoughtful story, I can only hope that Johnson is deep into a second graphic novel right now, which will appear soon and surprise us all.

Loren Foster is a senior in a private highschool on Maui, where he lives with his father in a rich neighborhood that the father's dental practice almost can pay for. Loren gets excellent grades, and works very hard, but he's also falling into the usual teenage angst and aimlessness. Night Fisher is the story of part of that senior year, about Loren's friends -- particularly Sean, who has been his best friend since he moved to Maui six years before -- and about the trouble that boys that have been good all their lives can get into once they really put their minds to it.

It's a closely observed story -- specific in its details but broadly recognizable from the lives of a million young men -- in an expressive, inky style with occasional hints of Paul Pope influence. It's strong enough to make me wish, once again, that Johnson is out there somewhere, working away at something else. He's still young, so there's every chance we'll get another dozen books as good as this from him over the next half-century. But, for now, there is Night Fisher, an excellent naturalistic story of these young men in this closely examined place.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Kate Tucker & The Sons Of Sweden - On The Radio
via FoxyTunes

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