Sunday, July 22, 2012

Short Take: Things Just Get Away from You, Walt Holcombe

This review originally appeared on Pol Culture.

In his collection Things Just Get Away from You, Walt Holcombe combines a penchant for whimsical, low-key adventure fantasy with an elegant and lively cartooning style. He has many hallmarks of a good children’s-comics creator. What he doesn’t have is much self-awareness or a sense of propriety. The opening story, “The King of Persia,” is typical. It starts as a light, antic tale about an ancient king (with a talking camel for a sidekick) who enlists a genie’s help to win the woman of his dreams. Holcombe even sets up a moral about always treating others’ hospitality with respect. What one doesn’t expect is for the story to be peppered with, among other things, suicide, gratuitous violence, and casual sex. These elements are all arbitrary, offhand, and fleeting. Holcombe doesn’t utilize them for overt shock value or any kind of ironic effect. They don't connect to anything deeper. It also doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that these things are discordant with his material and visual style. He’s just blithely sticking inappropriate bits into stories that otherwise seem geared for children. After putting the book down, one is left with the impression that Holcombe needs some perspective on what he's doing. It’s not that he should put aside this material and art style for those of more gravitas. It’s that he needs to recognize the readership for which his approach is most appropriate. There’s pride to be had in producing good material for children. The appeal of Things Just Get Away from You would seem restricted to adults who have failed to grow up.

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