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Knickerbocker, Sean – Rust Belt

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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

Knickerbocker, Sean – Killbuck

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Killbuck

I’ll admit it: between that title and what looks like a suspicious glance on that cover, I had different expectations of this book. I was completely wrong, which is always nice. Subvert my expectations more often please, artists of all kinds! Instead we’re basically seeing a small chunk of the lives of a few high school students and the people in their immediate orbit. Things start off with three friends (one of whom is clearly much lower in the pecking order than the others) going to check out a cabin in the woods. The cabin belongs to people who go away for the winter, so these kids are thrilled by the idea of a private hideout stocked with booze and (to them) terrible music. I also get the impression this is set roughly around 2000, although don’t quote me on that. Anyway, they decide on throwing a party in this new place, but with only a few people to avoid getting caught. We then get to see a little of the home life of Jesse (the long haired member of the trio, along with Eric (the asshole) and Kris (the terrified younger guy)), quickly followed by an introduction to the two ladies they had decided to invite to this party, working their job at a diner. We get a good look into exactly why Eric is such an asshole, and then it’s time for the party to begin! Things don’t go well, but it’s not a complete disaster either, but it does cause a split in the group. And this is the part of the review where I arbitrarily decide that I shouldn’t share any more of the story with you. The rest of the book is about how the kids end up grouping together after the party, the plans they’re making (or not) for life after school, and what is holding some of them back. It’s a brief period of their lives, but it’s universal doubts and fears to anybody who grew up in a small town. Or most likely anybody who grew up at all, but since I come from a small town too it really spoke to me. One thing’s for sure, these graduates of the Center for Cartoon Studies sure seem to know their stuff… $10