Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 189

The Lost Boy

by Greg Ruth
Genre notes: suburban fantasy, talking crickets
190 pages
ISBN: 0439823323 (Amazon)

This is a tale of the woodland kingdoms creeping in to reassert command over the realm so long ago thefted by the avarice of men. It’s an old story, told over and again, one of the most common tropes of the fantasy genre, speaking to human guilt accrued from our sometimes violent domination of the natural realm. It would have been easy for Greg Ruth to have produced something boring, just as ninety-nine percent of fantasy writers tackling the sub-genre have. But apparently, he’s too good for mediocrity.

Really, and I mean it, this book is gorgeous and contains a story that is both a kind of lived-in-comfortable as well as sparkling with an intelligence and verve we don’t often see in books of this ilk. To the art, we find in Ruth a masterful, confident creator whose ink-and-wash combination is a visual wonder. In some ways, the work resembles the real-world segments of The Nao of Brown, only with greater detail and less left to the work of Dillon’s kind of sense for colour. While dynamic, Ruth’s illustrations are firmly grounded in a realism that lends the book a gravity that a more cartoony artist would have to compensate for by using other techniques (probably relying too heavily on the writing and dialogue). By proposing realistic crickets and owls and trees and humans, Ruth raises the stakes of his story, allowing us to more easily imagine its events occurring in some suburban neighbourhood within twenty miles of where we sit while reading his book.

The way Ruth unfolds his story is well-conceived. He bounces between the present and the early '60s by means of several tapes worth of rediscovered vintage recordings—tapes that hold a peculiar mythos in the town. Like many such fantasy stories, our entry point is as a newcomer, someone unfamiliar with lore and legend—someone through whose eyes we might become gently acquainted to the weirdness in store. Through Nate, the newcomer, we encounter an earlier newcomer, Walt, child of the '60s. We see that strange things have been afoot and boiling to a head for a long time, decades at the least. And because the rate of a newcomer’s apprehension of the world he’s entered might be a bit slow, we’re also given Tabitha, the townie who’s been on the trail for years and has a pretty stock of files on the case already. The combination of the three characters and their specialties allows Ruth to reveal tale, trials, and consequences at essentially the perfect rate.

All three of the principal child characters are written well and Ruth builds enough meat on their psychological bones that none of their decisions come out of left field or are even at all unpredictable. Even better, for any inadequacies Ruth has built into their characters, each of the three is likable enough that we can pretty easily empathize with their plights. I enjoyed watching them sound out their place in a world whose seams are unstitching at too quick a rate.

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