Thursday, October 08, 2009

Refresh, Refresh GN

Danica Novgorodoff, James Ponsoldt & Benjamin Percy
Refresh, Refresh began as a prose book of short stories by Benjamin Percy. James Ponsoldt then based a screenplay around the book. Now, two times removed, Danica Novgorodoff bases her new graphic novel on that screenplay, so it's gotten away from the source material a bit. Which may be one of the reasons why I didn't really care for it. It just didn't translate very well to comics. The one thing I can say that I really enjoyed from this book is the art. I love Novgorodoff's simple, beautiful drawings, especially that awesome cover. It reads very fluidly, very cinematically, which may be due to its origins from a screenplay. Refresh, Refresh is about a small group of guys who live in a small town where they wait to hear news from their fathers, who are fighting in the war, to know if they are alright. The book is named after the idea that they are constantly refreshing their e-mail accounts in hopes of a new message. Meanwhile the boys deal with bullies at school in a coming-of-age tale that has them trying to figure out what they want out of life. Amid all of this, the boys take to fighting each other in one of their yards (boxing, hitting each other with make-shift weapons, etc.), hunting deer, and playing rather cruel pranks on other members of the community as ways to take out their frustrations of life on something physical. It all sounds good in theory, which is why I think the original short stories must have been pretty great stuff, but in comics form, the short scenes are very, very brisk. The characters have little room to breathe and despite the whole book being about them, hardly any of the chapters really seem to be developing genuine characters as opposed to the types of characters we've seen before in any number of places. In prose form, there's the ability to get more into a character's head, which is probably what was lost in translation here, leaving rather dull scenarios behind to be depicted by Novgorodoff. It was kind of like reading a list of what the characters would be seen doing, rather than experiencing it with them. I also wasn't the biggest fan of the depressing, defeating life of the small American town here, which didn't make it a very fun read either, but I could have enjoyed the story more with some rich, interesting characters.

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