I love graphic novels. I have loved them from the time I was introduced to them by a friend. Since then, I have not gone back on them. From Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series to Bill Willingham’s Fable Series, each graphic novel has been an experience in its own self and a unique one at that. I also believe that it is not easy to write a graphic novel. It is not that simple to say what you want to through pictures and characters that have to be spot on, since this is not a novel in its true form. So yes, I love the genre and appreciate the writers and illustrators who are able to deliver every single time.
Having said that, debut graphic novelists are a scary ground to experiment with. As a reader you do not know what to expect. At the same time you take chances whenever you are convinced about the graphic novel in question and this is exactly what I did with “Eustace” by S.J. Harris. More so when the graphic novelist is from Britain, from where I haven’t read too much graphic fiction. Anyway, I was pleasantly taken in by this dark and sometimes radically funny graphic book titled after the protagonist, “Eustace”.
“Eustace” is a boy, who is coming of age and is terribly ill. He is in bed all day with nothing to do but mull over life and dread visits from his uncles and a legion of Aunties. He has to eat horrid soup and nothing else. He gets tired easy and has nothing to do but sleep all day and hallucinate and use his wild imagination to his advantage. That is more or less how his time is spent. And one fine day a wicked uncle arrives and changes everything in his life. Eustace is exposed to decadence galore and life changes drastically for him, till he realizes more about his uncle and his past. That in short is the plot of the book.
Now to the illustrations: I loved them. There are strokes of brilliance in almost every page and the reader can see the effort put by the author in terms of expression, so to create the dark mood and at the same time keep it readable. To be able to create a sense of balance in a graphic novel is not very easy and Steven manages that effortlessly at times. I finished the book in one sitting and will also reread it at some time, just for the laughs and also for the satire that is hidden somewhere. I will most certainly look out for more stuff written by him and not miss that for sure. A must read if you like graphic novels.