As a reader, I tend to like my comics lush and ornate. While the writing is important, it’s often the art that draws me in first, so even before I knew comics like Sex Criminals, The Undertaking of Lily Chen, and March were great stories, I was attracted by their sweeping, vibrant, ambitious cartooning.
At first glance you might think Sam Alden’s slim book of cartoon stories, It Never Happened Again, isn’t like those other books. Alden’s panels are color-free, rough and messy, made up only of familiar pencil scratches. But in fact his apparent artlessness is deceptive: “Hawaii” and “Anime,” the two stories in It Never Happened Again, are both mini–master classes in elegant, evocative cartooning. Alden’s natural sense of framing and pace, his willingness to use silent panels to tell stories, and his beautiful (yes, beautiful) pencil images combined to open my eyes to a new idea of what a great comic can be.
It helps that he’s also an excellent writer—both stories sketch out lonely, lost characters efficiently, and put them each through very different quests for meaning. In “Hawaii,” a boy on vacation at the beach chases after a friend; in “Anime,” a young adult pins all her hopes for the future on an upcoming trip to Japan. I love them both, and I’m very pleased to have Sam Alden illustrating this month’s issue of the Slate Book Review.
It Never Happened Again by Sam Alden. Uncivilized Books.
TODAY IN SLATE
Forget Oculus Rift
This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals
The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team
The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad
Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again
I’m 25. I Have $250.03.
My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Smash and Grab
Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?