Chewing On Tinfoil by Joe Ollmann (Insomniac), 151 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
Those who dismiss graphic novels as kid stuff will change their minds after reading Joe Ollmann's comix. Citing influences as diverse as Charles Schulz and Edward Gorey, he delivers nine ugly, gritty little tales of growing up different in this first book-length collection. What's more, Chewing On Tinfoil comes straight atcha from a very familiar place -- small-town Ontario.The thread that connects the stories is a character who looks suspiciously like Ollmann. He appears in about half the stories, and the narratives of family life and adolescence that revolve around him are so awkward and cracked that I suspect a healthy dose of real-life inspiration.
Each of the stories walks that fine line between social critique and pure, laugh-out-loud entertainment. The highlight is the one called Death Wears Inexpensive Loafers, in which our slacker hero meets a girl for coffee at Yo! What Up Dog café (which features a "ghetto" theme) and they witness Death waiting on the sidewalk for a car accident to take place. Fire Sale is a well-crafted suspense-mystery kind of tale about a used bookstore that has burned down.
Of the remaining stories, God was the only one that didn't totally turn my crank. Perhaps it was the repellent blob-like white God figure hovering over the strip, or the fact that it left me hanging and made me feel the plot wasn't pushed as far as it could have been. Regardless, it's an interesting concept and worth a glance, so don't skip it.
I wonder what's up next for Ollmann, an accomplished cartoonist who made his name inking a four-year strip for Exclaim! His work has also appeared in the Hamilton Spectator, on the Comedy Network and in his little perfect-bound zine, Wag! (which he used to score by hand, using a butter knife).
Keep an eye on this guy. His work is hot. Write Books at email@example.com