Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Wait. I think I've got a quarter. Will you blow me for a quarter?
"Come on, man! I'm all ready!
"What did I say?"
"I'll see you retards later."
"Russ! Pal! Don't leave me here with blue balls! It's not nice!"
I think face of thunder would best describe Russ' face in response to his 'friend' Kurt's, as he perceives it, hilarious banter. In retrospect, Russ probably didn't do himself any favours drunkenly mentioning how their school friend Warren had paid Russ to lie on top of him and hug him. But then neither does Kurt know that Russ is in fact gay, albeit very much in the closet, unlike Warren, who is about to be forcibly evicted. Still, with 'friends' like Kurt and his sidekick asshat Willie, who for some reason best known to himself (and us the reader) Russ has chosen to hang around with during the summer, Russ is going to have learn to keep his secret under wraps if he wants an easy life. Here's the publisher's slightly hyperbolic synopsis of David Small's latest tale of emotional character torture.
"David Small's long-awaited graphic novel is a savage portrayal of male adolescence gone awry like no other work of recent fiction or film. Thirteen-year-old Russell Pruitt, abandoned by his mother, follows his father to sun-splashed California in search of a dream. Suddenly forced to fend for himself, Russell struggles to survive in Marshfield, a dilapidated town haunted by a sadistic animal killer and a ring of malicious boys who bully Russell for being 'queer.' Rescued from his booze-swilling father by Wen and Jian Mah, a Chinese immigrant couple who long for a child, Russell betrays their generosity by running away with their restaurant's proceeds. HOME AFTER DARK becomes a new form of literature in this shocking graphic interpretation of cinéma verité."
Now, in case you are wondering what cinéma verité or indeed 'blue balls' are, dear readers, allow me to enlighten you... Cinéma verité literally translated as "truthful cinema" is apparently "a style of documentary filmmaking, invented by Jean Rouch, inspired by Dziga Vertov's theory about Kino-Pravda and influenced by Robert Flaherty's films. It combines improvisation with the use of the camera to unveil truth or highlight subjects hidden behind crude reality. It is sometimes called observational cinema, if understood as pure direct cinema: mainly without a narrator's voice-over."
Sounds a lot like a not inconsiderable number of comics to me... Did the publisher really need to make the obscure cinema correlation? Maybe the hypewriter is a cinema buff?
Blue balls, on the other hand, was a term I'd never heard of until I lived in the USA for a couple of years. It's, well, let's just say it's a highly dangerous condition that if not treated rapidly can lead to the sufferers, usually immature young males, exploding. So no bad thing, then, if they are idiots like Kurt.
Anyway... all you really need to know is that David STITCHES Small is back once again putting his characters through the wringer. All of them, pretty much. I certainly think you'll be able to gather from the above blurb that Russell is not having an easy time of it. Indeed, the prologue of a young Russell just staring vacantly at his own reflection in a bauble on the Christmas tree - whilst his parents' climatic argument rages on right before his mother runs off with the local football star - is pretty much the tip of the emotional trauma iceberg that is come for poor old Russell.
With zero in the way of a positive parental role model from his alcoholic dad either, who promptly drags him halfway across the country for a failed fresh start and struggling with his sexual identity, Russell is about learn about life for himself the hard way.
If only he had some decent friends to help him through it all...
If only Russell was better at choosing his friends...
Russell is actually going to come out of this particularly troubled summer better than some, though, I will give you that...
For those that like their contemporary fiction more than a little dark and troubling, and their art style black and white, with lashings of grey shading and oh so heartbreakingly expressive, this is for you. This very nearly triggered the Rigby tear threshold, I have to say.