Nate Powell - Swallow Me Whole (4 stars)

Nate Powell - Swallow Me Whole

(Top Shelf)


Although Nate Powell’s graphic novel about the growing pains of a pair of step-siblings living in small town America is in the magic realist mould, the fantastic elements here are definitely – and in no way contrarily – of the mundane variety. Teenage Ruthy has conversations with insects, both living and the dead ones she collects in jars, while her step-brother Perry is bugged by the nattering Gandalf eraser on the end of his pencil. But as mildly strange as all this is, Powell’s focus is on the minutiae of the kids everyday existence: benign step-dad Ewell’s irritating way of forgetting about Ruthy’s vegetarianism, the teaching of evolutionism being banned in school by the PTA, the kids’ terminally ill maternal grandmother coming to live with them. It all adds up to a wonderfully nuanced portrait of teen angst, mental disorder and family dysfunction. And Powell’s subtle storytelling is enhanced by his deceptively dynamic black and white artwork.

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