Mosher covers too much familiar territory to make this a really memorable debut, but it contains enough good things to whet...

THE LAST BUFFALO HUNTER

Predictable but often moving first novel about a boy's coming-of-age summer in Montana.

Kyle Richards has been in love with the Big Sky country for most of his 14 years. His father was born and grew up in Montana; Cole Richards, his grandfather, still lives there. From books, atlases, films, and every other source he can lay hands on, Kyle has fashioned a larger-than-life idea of the state that makes his own native New York seem drab and overdomesticated. Kyle yearns to go West, so as a birthday present his parents give him a bus ticket and permission to spend the summer with Grandfather Cole. It doesn't take long for reality to put a damper on romanticism. Kyle arrives late at night to find no one waiting to meet him in the bleak and deserted bus terminal. Tired and a bit scared, the boy is temporarily stranded. Grandfather Cole was supposed to be there, but he had other things on his mind—namely, booze and women. Kyle quickly learns this is standard operating procedure for his grandfather, who soon hauls him off to the Six Point Saloon to meet an array of unsettling types. Among them are Darla and Dell Fishtrapper, lively, hefty, morally untrammeled Sioux maidens, both entranced with Grandfather Cole. In the succeeding weeks, Kyle is shaken and sobered by a series of hard knocks: a near-drowning, a beating at the hands of a mean-spirited bully, and a violently hormonal response to a local beauty. Most of all, however, he experiences Cole Richards, last of the real Montana men, from whom he learns a variety of lessons. Some are beneficial, some are not; none are easy.

Mosher covers too much familiar territory to make this a really memorable debut, but it contains enough good things to whet the appetite for his next.

Pub Date: April 30, 2001

ISBN: 1-56792-146-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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A thin sliver of illustrated memoir that barely hits its stride before fading away.

CHICKEN WITH PLUMS

Satrapi (Embroideries, 2005, etc.) recalls the tragic final days of her great-uncle, an Iranian musician who died of a broken heart after his wife destroyed his favorite instrument.

Set for the most part in Tehran circa 1958, this graphic memoir tells the story of Nasser Ali Khan, a renowned master of the tar, an Iranian stringed instrument. A man of taciturn demeanor and moodiness, Khan believes himself too much of an artist to perform non-creative labor; he barely contributes to the household upkeep with either work or money. Not surprisingly, his firecracker of a wife doesn’t take well to this attitude and eventually cracks, snapping his beloved tar in two and sending Khan to his bed, where he grows gloomy and frets. This day-by-day reconstruction shows Khan’s wife and brother trying to rouse him back to the land of the living. But his artist’s pride (the tar was Stradivarius-like in its perfection) is not easily mended. As always, Satrapi’s artwork is simple and expressive, with its rich pools of black ink and swooping, lyrical curlicues. Only occasionally does she break out of a strict frame-to-frame design, but when she does, the results are breathtaking. One beautiful page depicts the family of one of Khan’s sons seated around the TV: In the top half, they’re happy and chatty, watching a woman sing; in the bottom, all is in perditious shadow, a bearded man lecturing on the screen, with the text reading simply, “But in 1980 war erupted and that was the end of happiness.” Unfortunately, the volume is so short that the story doesn’t have enough time to take root, and what could have been an emotional and heart-rending drama becomes instead an intriguing footnote.

A thin sliver of illustrated memoir that barely hits its stride before fading away.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-42415-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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An enjoyable creeper that needs a bit more room to run.

THE ABSENCE

A village on the English coast wrestles with postwar realities and quantum physics in graphic designer and playwright Stiff’s debut six-issue horror/science fiction miniseries.

At the center of this tale set amid the cliffs, moors and pub of a seaside English village are dapper, disfigured veteran Marwood Clay and Robert Temple, an aloof scientific visionary who fought—and won—World War II on a radically new front. Marwood was born in the village, but he and Temple are both considered outsiders thanks to a fiery tragedy in Marwood and the villagers’ shared past. Temple has come with deep pockets and bizarre plans to erect a mammoth, meticulously designed structure referred to by his local foreman as “this pile of shite.” After an initial, congenial introduction, Marwood and Temple soon find themselves at odds as each attempts to engage with the villagers. Meanwhile, the village struggles with a rash of inexplicable disappearances. Is it murder? Is it Marwood? Or does something darker lurk beneath the village’s quaint facade? An opening scene of a localized cataclysm shares the date with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, quickly establishing a connection between advanced technology and primal fear (exemplified by Temple’s boss, a decrepit, amputee government agent who wants Temple’s knowledge to further his own agenda). The story maintains a creepy atmosphere throughout, with elements of The Twilight Zone, The Manchurian Candidate and Donnie Darko, well served by Stiff’s simple, expressive black-and-white illustrations that have the outsized chunkiness of Howard Chaykin and the energetic crudity and classic paneling of Steve Yeowell. Stiff stuffs his story until it bristles with science-fiction tropes like liquid mirrors, sinister German doctors, prognostication via equations, crumbling religious iconography and nods to Schrödinger’s cat, but the sheer number of ideas and the brevity of the series give any individual concept short shrift.

An enjoyable creeper that needs a bit more room to run.

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1782760382

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Titan Comics

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2014

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