Swallow Me Whole
Comic book artist Nate Powell has made his name on quasi-surreal tales of punk lifestyles, which has garnered some criticism from reviewers who like his illustrations but find those stories tedious. With Swallow Me Whole, he moves into the mainstream with his first full-length story from a bigger publisher and a storyline dealing with family and schizophrenia. This is a subject that’s been tackled by other cartoonists like Chester Brown and David B in recent years, and initially I felt like these artists showed it more effectively. The story centres around schizophrenic teenager Ruth and her brother (both outsiders at school), their parents and terminally ill grandmother. Powell has a great talent for capturing young voices and youth culture. Swallow Me Whole takes a while to get going, and it’s when he really develops the teenage characters through mundane hangouts and work-study jobs that the story hooks you in. Powell has an autistic brother and has worked with developmentally disabled adults for years, so this is likely a story that’s been waiting to get out. Powell’s dense inky blacks and scrawl-like brushstrokes are beautiful as always, but this isn’t his strongest narrative and it may take another book to really draw in a new audience for his work.
type: graphic novel