Post York by James Romberger (Uncivilized Books)
As apocalyptic tales go, Post York is a quiet one.
This short graphic novel captures a post-flood New York City, where the buildings are half underwater and scavengers boat around looking for food and whatever else they need to survive.
Romberger’s main character is based on his own son, and we follow him through a little slice of his post end of the world life, including a brief encounter with another person, as well as one with a larger creature.
In some ways, this book hearkens back to such ‘70s end of the world nuggets like The Omega Man, A Boy and His Dog, and Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth — not to mention my childhood guilty pleasure, Hercules Unbound — but rather than going for the action, Romberger settles on something closer to Tarkovsky’s Stalker. His stark black and white drawings render the future with bleakness that’s strangely coupled with a scrappy quality that exudes a sense of discovery.
Included with the book is an actual flexi-disc of a song, done by Romberger’s son, Crosby, that serves as both a prelude and soundtrack that heightens the reading experience and adds an audio urgency to the story.
Dear Beloved Stranger by Dino Pai (Top Shelf Productions)
Dino Pai offers a colorful swirl of realistic autobiography and fantastical fairy tales, with a huge dollop of surrealist imagery.
Dino, the character in the book, is a recently graduated art student whose entry into the world hasn’t bolstered him much. He’s working on a comic that he’s convinced will help him discover his voice and express the ideas that he had to keep simmering below the surface as he went to school. His alienation from the world, though, is impossible to ignore, especially since it manifests itself in not only his cutting himself off emotionally, but pouring his secrets into letters to his “dear beloved stranger” and having them delivered in paper airplane form thrown out his apartment window.
Pai’s story encapsulates the process by which a creative person moves forward, taking emotional experiences and channeling them into art work in order to grapple with previous actions, understand them, and clear the way for future ones. The character Dino also has to come face to face with himself, as a foolish, naive creature who must acknowledge himself so in order to move into adulthood.
“Dear Beloved Stranger” is a simple little story, and its emotions are very personal, but it’s certainly something that those in the transition between youth creativity and adult applications of it — and those of us who can remember that process — will appreciate Pai putting down on the page.