Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened, edited by Jason Rodriguez

Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened is a graphic novel short story collection, built around a premise that I love- each author (or collaborative team) in the collection was given a vintage postcard, and then asked to write a story about how the postcard came to be.

The trouble with postcards is that they're too short. What's there time to say, really? Hello, how are you, all's well, see you soon.

And that's the trouble with the short stories, too.

It's not so much that the 16 stories are bad (though a couple are) or boring (though a few of them are). It's that all of them drift towards the predictable. For everyday life to look interesting, we have to see enough of it to appreciate the tension the characters feel.

I think about American Splendor, Harvey Pekar's opus. Here we see Harvey fretting is way through life: his bills, his marriage, his job, his art. Any of them would be boring without the context that helps us understand that Harvey is consumed by being Harvey.

And I don't get that feeling from more than one or two of these stories. The best one, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Micah Farritor's "Homesick", follow a couple trying to live the sweet life in Paris during the Great Depression. The tension between the husband and wife is palpable- the realization that the dream they have achieved might not be a thing that can make them both happy, and the unspoken wondering when it will end and how.

I also enjoyed "The Midnight Caller's Holiday in Hades" by Robert Tinnell and illustrated by Brendand and Brian Fraim, about a superhero, told in the style of an old-time radio broadcase. Tom Beland's "Time," about a man who knows he is about to die and how he has come to peace with that, offers the sort of vanilla heaven that plagues The Night Bookmobile, but at least I was interested in the characters.

Which is, sadly, more than I can say for the rest of the collection. A great premise, inexpertly executed.

This was book 52 of my book-a-week challenge.

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