When English poet Alexander Pope said "Brevity is the soul of genius," he was probably talking about heroic couplets -- or kidding (after all, he's partly famous for his translations of Homer's Odyssey and Iliad). But he also captured perfectly the magic of a great, modern graphic novel.
The uninitiated often call them "comic books," but graphic novels are really super-condensed epic tales filled with simultaneously transparent and complex characters. When a writer tells a story using only a combination of art panels and dialogue bubbles, they literally have to cut the crap and get to the point.
Characters are not always superheroes or villains, either -- often, they're just really messed up people in some crazy situation. Such is the case with everybody stuck in amazingly f'ed up Templar, Arizona, the namesake fictional town of Charlie "Spike" Trotman's graphic novel and web series.
is the newest volume of theTemplar, Arizona
series. The series centers on Ben Kowalski, a transplant from Yakima, Washington who takes a job writing for the local alternative paper in Templar, a place so wacky it makes Maricopa County look like Mayberry (to quote a Templar resident, "You try rippin' off th' assholes around here and they will just stab you").
Templar's a town of cult fanatics, drug addicts, and dubiously gendered gossip mongers. In the first three Templar, Arizona books, the reader's introduced to a strange brew. There's Tuesday, a rich girl from Templar's ritzy King Street who romanticizes slumming with the working stiffs (take that both ways); Tuesday's nemesis Nicky Collision, host of local TV show The Damage Report and image of a washed-up '80s cock rocker; The Elliots, Biggs and E.J., an addict and a thief; and the Jakeskin, a survivalist cult led by a dude that looks like an old Hell's Angel.
And those are just a few of the colorful characters streaking across the pages.
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Throughout the first three books, main character Kowalski's an introvert who has to be pushed into going out into Templar. Several things happen in Book 4 -- including a clash between the Jakeskin and the Elliots, a visit to "adult store" Kingdom Come, and several pages of pure action panels featuring a bald woman with big boobs and an even bigger knife. There's also a revelation about Pippi, Kowalski's unrequited crush. By the end of it all, Kowalski starts to come out of his shell and has an important realization about himself.
Of course, we can't tell you what that is. But we hear a major character has a breakdown in the upcoming fifth book.
Want more? Come back tomorrow, and check out Chow Bella all week for food-related books.