Thursday, September 02, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 211 (9/2) -- Lucky in Love by Chieffet and DeStefano

Fiction often pretends to be something else -- and, usually, when it's pretending, it's to be something more true and less fictional. That's a classic tactic -- the very first novels. like Robinson Crusoe and Pamela, pretended to be letters or other documents -- but it can confuse the reader if the pose is maintained through to the end.

Lucky in Love is a completely fictional graphic novel that barefacedly pretends to be the memoirs -- both of war and love -- of an old man named Lucky Testaduda [1], who fought in WWII. Lucky's exploits weren't all that exciting, and they're told in an offhand manner here -- this would be fine, of course, if they had the majesty of truth to them, but it's a pretty thin and minor tale to be spun up out of whole cloth.

The lead creator is the artist, Stephen DeStefano; the one quote on the back cover is about his work, his biography comes first, and he's the one with a history in the comics field. Writer George Chieffet is the junior partner here -- though whether he had an equal part in creating this story, or if he wrote it all before DeStefano illustrated it, or even if he worked semi-Marvel fashion, adding explanations and dialogue over DeStefano's drawn pages, is all unclear. Somehow, the two of them worked together and made this book -- the autobiography of an ordinary guy who never was, the average exploits of an average Joe.

Since Lucky is an average guy to whom only average things happen, Lucky in Love isn't particularly exciting -- the first section sees him at fifteen, lusting after (but not getting anywhere with) the local girls; the second part has a slightly older Lucky now working as an Air Force mechanic in Hawaii, still lusting after the girls but managing not to get any even in a whorehouse; and then the last third of the book picks up with Lucky after the war (apparently discharged at the age of 19, immediately after the war ended, making his war very short indeed), working his first job and as part of a team in a greased-pole-climbing contest. All of these moments in his life are heavily narrated in Lucky's voice -- as if told many decades later, which the slight frame story also implies -- to continue the fiction that this is some real man's autobiography. But it isn't; it's pure fiction, and every event the result of a deliberate decision by Chieffet and DeStefano.

I will admit that it's a breath of fresh air to have a piece of historical fiction where the hero never meets a single famous figure, or gets involved with any world-historical events -- though perhaps Lucky could have been slightly more competent, or introspective, or successful, with anything he attempted. I don't think that he's supposed to be a pitiful little loser -- though he does go on and on about how short he is -- but all he has going for him is a quick temper and an impenetrable self-regard, which together keep him far away from anything resembling even moderate success.

The real reason to read Lucky in Love, of course, is DeStefano's art, which is intensely expressive and cartoony, among his best work, with fabulous panel designs, wonderful grotesque characters, and amazing energy throughout. Even if Lucky Testaduda isn't the most interesting character, or has had much exciting happen to him, DeStefano makes his every step on this mediocre path of intense visual interest.

[1] Yes, apparently, as my brother used to put it, somebody saw a bloody fetus and said "Lucky!" There's no sign that this is a nickname; Lucky, presumably, was the name he was baptized and confirmed with, in the Catholic Church of the 1930s and '40s.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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