Renée French (4 stars)

Renée French

The Ticking (Top Shelf)


California-based cartoonist Renée French’s tale of a troubled childhood is a surreal gem. It concerns a boy named Edison Steelhead, whose birth cost the lad his mother’s life and whose disfigured face is inherited from his bereaved father. In a misguided effort to protect his deformed son, Edison’s father takes him away to live on a remote island, where the boy lives happily enough making beautiful sketches of dead flies and other oddities until an ill-advised trip to a plastic surgeon and the adoption of a chimpanzee sister cause Edison to run away.

Rendered in hazy lead pencil, and with the carefully shaded panels floating in white space and anchored by little text, French’s day dreamy visual style perfectly compliments her strange story. That said, the relationship she traces between father and son, and the idea that one must accept one’s inner beauty before it can be appreciated elsewhere are universally recognised truths. A profoundly affecting book.

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