I have to admit, I bought this book entirely because of its title. I was looking for Christmas gifts for my brother, and he’s a beard guy. To be clear, he’s not sporting one of those handsome, carefully maintained beards, but rather, a look that shouts “I just wandered out of the deep backwoods.” (I’m positive I’ve seen small twigs and feathers stuck in it before.) We’re part Norwegian too, so although his hair is dark blonde, his beard is as red and thick and gnarly as a viking, and when I saw the illustration on the cover of Collins’ graphic novel, I knew I had to buy it.
Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of graphic novels. I have nothing against them except that I find the style challenging to read. The combination of art and text often gives me eye strain and a headache, so while I would like to pick up a series (like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, for example), the impending migraine just isn’t worth it. Collins’ book, however, gave me no trouble at all. I don’t know whether it’s related to how he’s laid out the material or if it’s simply a side benefit of using black and white art instead of color, but I tore through it on the day after Christmas. (I wanted to steal it immediately after my brother opened it, but he selfishly wouldn’t let me, claiming he had rights to the first read. Brothers – so unreasonable!)
The title (and the first few pages I’d read when I purchased it) had led me to believe it would be a comedy, but in fact, I found the story painful and beautiful and sad. Collins is not only a gifted artist but an insightful storyteller, and I was completely captivated from start to finish. I also found myself constantly wondering about the direction he was taking the story. For me, it is a rare treasure to find a book with a relatively simple concept so deftly told that I couldn’t deduce the ending from the halfway point.
By the time I arrived at the end, I only wished to read more, to have a sequel to pick up that might unravel the story that clearly exists after the final page. It’s not that he needs one, but Collins has clearly imagined a whole world for his put-upon protagonist that the reader will never see, but I, for one, am desperate to know more about.
For more about Stephen Collins, head over to his beautiful website.