Random Review (Off My Comic Book Shelf) The Death-Ray By Daniel Clowes

From time to time I will review comics from my collection. I'am a huge comic book nerd but by no means an expert in the field - so no technical talk or insider analysis. Just simply one nerds opinion.

All reviews are graded on a completely arbitrary scale from 0 to 10 (no half points) with zero being complete trash and ten being an absolute masterpiece.

I decided to choose The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes first because it was an impulse buy that just blew me away. I have several "indie" titles but they do not dominate my collection. Prior to picking up this comic by Mr. Clowes my only knowledge of his work was seeing the film Ghost World (based on his comic) and an interveiw of him on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron.

When I went in my local comic shop I had no intention of picking up any of his works but the cover just drew me in, plus 19.95 Canadian for a great looking hard cover was such a refreshing pricing point!

******Warning Potential Spoilers******

The story kicks off with our main character Andy in 2004 (the story first appeared in Eightball #23 that year), the colour pallet in just white and a dreary light blue. Andy is twice divorced, lonely and down on life. We than flash back to a young Andy in the 70's  with the pages full of colour's capturing the times perfectly. We find out that Andy lives with his Grandpa and both his parents have passed away. We are also introduced to his only friend Louie - a mouthy, anti-social,ballsy kid. Louis introduces Andy to cigarettes and that's where we find out about the powers nicotine gives Andy; making him aggressive with super human strength. These powers come from experimental hormones Andy's late scientist father gave him in an attempt to not be so weak.

What makes this comic unique is the use of panels, boarders and "chapter" titles. The colours change with tone and the use of panels give it a cinematic feel. I particularly like the instances of classmates giving a quip on how they feel about Andy - reminiscent of a yearbook grad photo grid with the quote under it. From page to page its different, striking and at time's hilarious. Yet its constructed in a way that even though it jumps from flashbacks to present day and dream sequences your never lost, just along for the ride.

Eventually the Death Ray is introduced and it gives Andy the ability to completely wipe out someone leaving no evidence of their remains. Louie wants Andy to become a superhero with himself as his sidekick and begs him to use the Death-Ray on his older sisters shitty drug dealing boyfriend. Eventually Andy starts using this powerful weapon and is forced to kill his only friend, when Louie try's to smash his head in with a rock and take the Death-Ray from him. This haunts Andy more so than the other victims and for a long while never uses the Death-Ray and just grows up to be a near do well sad lonely man.

I honestly can't do this comic proper justice, its not just the old trope of great responsibility great sacrifice so many comic stories have gone to. The characters a really fleshed out with Andy being such a tragic character. It has real emotion with Andy's struggles of loneliness and dealing with his Grandpas dementia, his first love Dusty, and coping with murdering people, justified or not. Yet its hilarious and such an easy read with beautiful backdrops and unique storytelling only a comic book would be capable of.

I highly recommend it: 9 out of 10

keifer saunders