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Knickerbocker, Sean – Rust Belt


Rust Belt

There’s a whole lot to unpack here in this collection of 7 stories from Sean. Some of them connect directly, others maybe tangentially, others not at all. Or they all do and I missed it because I am human and fallible. Either way, they all share a vague sense of a lack of identity, of wondering if it’s worth it to keep going each day the same way things have been going. In other words, America 2019! I’m going to start at the back, with the last story, mostly because I read this hours ago and that’s the one that sticks with me the most. Internet Persona starts off with a man recording a right wing rant in his truck, mostly because his wife has banned him from doing it in the house. His rant gets picked up by another right wing pundit (who was banned from Buzzfeed for racist comments), the man is thrilled and eventually has a long conversation with his hero. He gets some advice and eventually a job offer (sort of), but it’s clear all along that the guy with the bigger profile is running a grift. Meanwhile, the rising star didn’t do much to disguise his identity, so eventually the truth about him gets out, leading to him losing his job. His wife sticks with him through all of it, and it’s an all-around indictment of that culture. If I had a complaint about it, it’s that I could have used a bit more time with the wife. Why put up with as much as she did? Granted, he was always nice to her, but he had an obvious temper, and that sort of thing rarely ends well. Other stories in here include a boy named Chad in school who finally gets teased too much (his crush leaving town didn’t help matters), a failed attempt at pretending that he’d read a book in a book report, a store manager who’s hanging on by a thread and gets offered a demotion at a terrible time (probably my second favorite story, it’s basically a man who’s done all the rationalizing that he can that things are going to get better eventually), a drunk and a broken toy, and finally a woman who’s broke and out of food long before she gets her paycheck. It’s grim at times, but it all feels real, probably because a lot of this stuff is playing out in small towns right now. Sean does a thoroughly impressive job with this graphic novel, and once again when my main complaint is that I wish some of the stories had been longer… that’s the sign of a really great book. $18.95