Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes

If you were a lonely misfit teenager who suddenly discovered you could zap people right out of existence, would you use your power wisely? That is Andy's dilemma in the graphic novel The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes. Andy's only friend during his teen years is Louie, a hotheaded misanthrope. Would things have turned out differently without Louie's bad influence?

Clowes (Ghost World; WilsonMr. Wonderful) writes about people that seem boring at first glance - average joes living nondescript lives - and then right away you get inside their heads and even the grumpy, bitter and jaded become sympathetic. Andy in The Death-Ray is just that sort of lonely middle-aged guy when we meet him in 2004. He has a chip on his shoulder about his two ex-wives: "Neither one of them was worth a damn. Just a couple of whores out to drain a man of his money and vigor. Too bad for them, I don't have much of either. Tough shit, ladies." Based on his boring present life, who would guess about Andy's exciting youthful misadventures?

The comics panels are in cheerful primary colours: bright yellow vomit; bright red blood. The Death-Ray is over-the-top and tongue in cheek. It's thought-provoking, tragic and absolutely brilliant.

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