Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #257: The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple

I'm having the damnedest time trying to figure out a way into this book, so maybe that means I should just start describing it and see if that leads anywhere. It's a graphic novel, reading like the demon-inspired stepchild of Bodyworld and Dungeon Quest, about the quest to save the world after a magical apocalypse that apparently killed everyone but kids.

Farel Dalrymple tells that story -- the story of the kid-gang called The Wrenchies, the toughest and strongest and most fearless fighters against Shadowmen and the other terrors of their very broken and very nasty world, and how they eventually were led by an ancient Scientist and a group of adult Wrenchies to save that world -- sideways and inside out, telling first the story of the boys Sherwood and Orson, who went into a cave they shouldn't have, met a creature that shouldn't even exist, and killed it when it attacked them. And then he circles to the Wrenchies, but only for a while -- only to keep setting the scene, to let us see just how ragged and cruel and liberating the future apocalypse will leave the world, without parents or babies, just kids who know that when they grow up far enough they'll turn into monsters themselves.

We don't know how these things connect. We also don't know why the focus switches to Hollis, another kid in the time before the apocalypse, who lives in New York and befriends an adult man named Sherwood, busily creating a comic book in the window right across from Hollis's. (And we've already seen that comic book, The Wrenchies, which is not the story we're reading and is not the story of that kid gang -- though the kids in the gang found the comic and read it.) We're not even sure why Hollis always dresses in a superhero costume -- well, OK, we've got a pretty good idea about that, from a dozen other stories.

Hollis's story connects to the Wrenchies and their world, and loops back to Sherwood, as well -- poor Orson wanders off between panels and doesn't play a major role. There's a lot of exposition in The Wrenchies at about the halfway mark, as if Dalrymple decides he's probably hooked us by now, so he might as well give us (and the characters) the backstory and set most of the cast off on their quest to save the world. And so he does.

The Wrenchies is loose-limbed and gangly, sprawling all over, even more than its three hundred pages would seem to allow. Even after the ending, there's another twenty pages of short stories about Sherwood and Orson -- I suspect these might be leftover pieces of the story, or pieces of an earlier version, or something like that; parts of the story that was in Dalrymple's head but didn't make it into the main narrative.

It's energetic and full of ideas -- full of wordy speech balloons and complicated page layouts that show schematics of the complicated underground lairs of the Wrenchies and their fellow kid-gangs, full of noise and light and magic and monsters and transformations and noble sacrifices and all those kinds of things that youngish boys not unlike most of the Wrenchies themselves like so much. It's a bit much some of the time, in the way of an overstuffed bag, but it's heart is always in the right place and Dalrymple's art, somewhere in the unmapped regions between indy and superhero, serves this story very well.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

No comments:

Post a Comment