By Farel Dalrymple
Available now from First Second (Macmillan)
There are two brothers who kill a shadow and find an amulet. One of those brothers grows up to write a comic called The Wrenchies. There's a world where shadowmen have killed almost everyone, and the best fighters who oppose them are a group of young'uns called The Wrenchies who read a comic called The Wrenchies. Then there's young Hollis, who reads a comic called The Wrenchies and then falls into the world of The Wrenchies. Confused? Welcome to THE WRENCHIES.
Honestly, I feel like I should read THE WRENCHIES again to better sort how things fall into place as the novel progresses. At the same time, I haven't, because I don't really desire to read it again.
Farel Dalrymple's art is well suited to the world of THE WRENCHIES, fading and decaying and under siege. I do wish there was some variation in style to help keep separate worlds apart visually. At the same time, that works for how the layers and locations of the story blend together. But really, I just found that I didn't like the art much. There was something off-putting about it to me, although it was so close to what I usually like. There is a deliberate ugliness, but not one that worked for me. Plus, I found all the red noses distracting.
As for the story itself, it will appeal to fans of post-apocalyptic literature. There are a lot of characters to keep straight, and it can be hard to remember who has died. I definitely felt like I never had a great grasp on Hollis's age. His looks told me one thing, but his behavior and voice made me peg him as younger. (I definitely liked him better when I decided he was younger than I first thought, although I felt weird about him being the questing hero in a gory story that in some ways boils down to drug addicts vs. zombies.) I feel like the book could've spent more time developing Sherwood as well, since Sherwood drives most of the plot, even if he isn't the one of a heroic quest.
THE WRENCHIES just never grabbed me, although it was full of ideas I found intriguing. It's wonderfully layered and complex, but not interesting enough for me to really try to unpack what lies beyond the surface. I'm just not the right audience for this graphic novel.