“Baaukar, my lord, it is very difficult to interrogate a corpse. Though, certainly not impossible.”
A couple of months ago, I reviewed The Only Living Boy. Vol. 2 by request of the author, David Gallaher. As I said in that review, I was honored to do so. A couple of weeks ago, I received an invite to get more of the story. Based on the previous experience, I jumped at the opportunity to not only fill in what I had missed from Vol. 1, but to continue the story into Vol. 3. As one might imagine, this lends a far greater perspective in terms of storytelling and character development, which for me is far more gratifying than a single installment.
The first two volumes are just plain fun. A young boy runs away and finds himself alone on a patchwork planet. He is befriended by some unlikely and interesting allies, and he has to make heads or tails out of the situation he finds himself in. I feel like details would ruin the surprises, though it ultimately comes down to a dystopian sci-fi / fantasy that makes for an impressive introduction that’s surprisingly upbeat at times given the foundations in place. There’s adventure aplenty, but it’s all clearly setup for something more. Questions are asked.
Vol. 3 peels back some of those layers to offer answers, which of course only brings new questions and new avenues for storytelling. The masters of the patchwork planet begin to really exert themselves in this volume and reveal themselves to be as patchwork as their creations on more than just the physical level. The story takes a psychological turn, asking the really hard questions about death, love, and belonging in a world where nothing seems to have much value on the surface, and things exist in haphazard combination. I’ve been wrestling with how to describe this, and the best analogy I can offer is that this is one part Frankenstein, one part The Island of Dr. Moreau, one part The Planet of the Apes, and stitched together with elements of wonder and optimism offered from the best hero kid movies from the 80s. It’s one of those stories that you have to see to believe simply due to the sheer amount of heart that David Gallaher put into this story.
When you’re talking graphic novels, the story has to be told hand-in-glove with the art in perfect symbiosis. Steve Ellis brings a style to this tale that, personally, I found inviting. The muted colors offer a sense of darkness, but the wonder still comes through. As every panel services the story in compliment, you keep turning pages. But when the adventure is over, it calls you back to go through it more slowly to absorb the details in each panel. This has the effect of making you want to re-read to see what else the art may have added that you didn’t notice on the first time through. The best graphic novels on the market in any era are the ones that encourage this exact experience, and so I give The Only Living Boy my highest recommendation. I’m looking forward to continuing with this story as it progresses.