Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes (2011)

My latest selection from the St. Denis bookshelf in exile is The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes (2011). As an established Clowes fan, I was pretty damn sure I would like this one, and even with some unexpected twists, I was not wrong in my prediction.

We meet Andy as a middle-aged man -- he is divorced, lives alone, is pretty bitter, and seems to be a very lonely, isolated guy. Nothing new for Clowes readers here. Then we go back to the origins of Andy as an isolated, lonely teenager with one friend, the too-mature, bit of a dickweed, Louie. Andy lives with his senile grandfather, both his parents having passed away.

Louie offers Andy his first cigarette one day, and that's when Andy realizes that tobacco has an unexpected affect on him. It turns out that before his father died, he treated Andy with an experimental serum that would unleash super powers whenever he smoked a cigarette. Oh, and he also left him a ray gun that can kill people.

As you may imagine, combining the potential for superpowers with the emotions and decision-making skills of a teenager gives us some intriguing results.

While the super-hero angle is not really something I expected from Clowes, the characters of Andy and Louie fit right into the Clowes pantheon. The story, which originally appeared in the Eightball series in 2004, is approached creatively with different length strips coming at the character of Andy and his actions from varying perspectives. The large format book serves the art well, giving room for the short and long sections to combine into a powerful narrative. This is one worth checking out, both for Clowes fans and for those who don't know they are Clowes fans just yet.