This is the blog of comics critic Rob Clough, who also has a column of the same name over at The Comics Journal website (TCJ.com).
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Foxing Reprints #10: Dawson Walker
The Granville Syndrome, by Dawson Walker. Walker is a recent graduate of the Minnesota College of Art & Design. His student work stood out when I visited the campus in 2013, and his senior project, The Granville Syndrome, represents a big step forward in terms of its narrative qualities. Walker loves to evoke atmosphere first and foremost, and this story of two young adults going for a ride and looking for storms makes extensive use of greyscaling and a scribbly line to create an oppressive physical and emotional atmosphere. Jordan and Maggie are two small town kids; Jordan is the responsible one who looks after his parents' convenience store, while Maggie is a free spirit who is desperate to leave and take Jordan with her. Walker's character design is expressive and funny; Maggie's eyes threaten to pop out of her head while Jordan is a bit of a schlub. Still, it's the sky and the wind rushing through the trees that are the visual stars of this story, adding a feeling of foreboding from the very first page.
The building storm is meant to reflect the growing emotional conflict between the two old friends, as Jordan refuses to leave. Walker is careful not to portray either character as "right". Maggie is a loose cannon who has to leave because of an unspoken conflict and possibly abuse with her father but also because she is sick of being bound by the simplicity of small town life. Jordan refuses to leave because he is devoted to his parents, but he's also reluctant to leave because those small town patterns are reassuring in their own way. He's afraid to leave and try something new. When the weather intervenes and separates them, it's clear that emotional choices have been irrevocably made. While we never see Maggie again for the duration of the story, one can sense (without him saying it) that Jordan immediately regrets his decision. It's too late, however, as the swollen sky has swallowed up his friend for good, leaving him a small and powerless witness to its carnage.
Walker's dialogue veers a bit toward the cinematic and melodramatic, but in general he's got a strong hold on these characters and what they're like. It's a work befitting someone who spent four years having undergone an intense experience in trying as an artist. He made the choice that Maggie makes, and Walker doesn't romanticize it one bit. If anything, his coming to an end of his undergraduate career only makes the future all the more frightening no matter how creative someone is. That fear and that uncertainty is writ loud and large on Walker's page, but he's eloquent enough to pull it off without veering too far into melodrama. Indeed, the final page is indicative of sheer awe, beauty and terror as Jordan stares at the sky.
I battle cancer at my day job, and write about comics & women's college basketball at night. I have feisty young daughter who is my test subject for all the kids' comics I receive.
I will happily review any comics sent to me. I especially like to review minicomics. Contact me at tmc [at] duke [dot] edu for more info or send your comics to:
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