MK Reed and Farel Dalrymple’s comic Palefire, reviewed.

The Girl, the Psycho, and the Nice Guy

The Girl, the Psycho, and the Nice Guy

Reading between the lines.
Oct. 9 2015 12:09 PM

The Girl, the Psycho, and the Nice Guy

A comic about teenagers that understands just how frustrating they can be.

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Illustration by MK Reed

Are girls only interested in jerks? It’s a time-honored question among high school boys, and one that gets an admirably thorough examination in MK Reed and Farel Dalrymple’s collaborative comic Palefire. But the question, of course, isn’t that simple. Some girls are interested in bad boys, like Alison, who finds something intriguing in firebug Darren that no one else sees. And some “nice guys,” like Paul, use their niceness as a weapon, reminding their friends just how they’re continually falling short of the mark.

Palefire is a short and smart comics story made by a writer and an artist who clearly remember what it’s like to be teenagers: How your emotions can turn on a dime, how little mistakes can have lasting marks, and how sometimes your friends’ disapproval is exactly what it takes for you to want something even more. When Darren makes a unique sort of offering to show Alison just how he feels, the response isn’t quite what he expects. And when Paul comes to the rescue, the results aren’t quite what a reader might hope. But that’s what teenagers do: frustrate the adults in their lives, because we want what’s best for them even if they don’t. MK Reed is a very exciting and thoughtful new cartoonist, and we’re very pleased to have her illustrating this month’s issue of the Slate Book Review.

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Palefire by MK Reed and Farel Dalrymple. Secret Acres.

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Dan Kois edits and writes for Slate’s culture department. He is writing a book called How to Be a Family and co-writing, with Isaac Butler, an oral history of Angels in America.