"I want to try it again. Start fresh. Can we do that?" - Caleb Marcus
Caleb Marcus is not having the best of weeks as the school year finishes. His girlfriend Carlie has broken up with him via texting, his parents have been killed in a road accident, and he is alienating his mates with his descent into despair. Unfortunately Caleb also has some anger management problems, this can't end well.
Meanwhile ex-girlfriend Carlie is basking in her new found "freedom", which apparently translates to hitting the nearest night spot and picking up some new dude. I've got a feeling our Carlie would fall into the "heavy maintenance" category. When Caleb calls due to his parents fatal collision with a truck Carlie rushes on over to offer comfort but rejects Caleb's pleading to try their relationship one more time. Has Hayden Fryer been hitting one too many chick flicks and will there be sparkling vampires?
The first in a three part graphic novel Love lays down the framework of where we're going in pretty startling fashion. We have our major players on stage, secondary characters lined up, and to be honest while it might seem pretty obvious where things are headed I'm expecting a few twists in the tale to keep things interesting. Which isn't to say you won't be grooving to Hayden Fryer's beat here, on the contrary the script keeps things rocking as we get our teen break-up on. Can't believe I just wrote that, I might need to hit some heavy quantities of beer at a topless bar here.
One of the criticisms aimed at Stephen King is that he cannot create believable female characters, though in later books like Rose Madder the criticism is perhaps unfair, Hayden Fryer isn't likely to come under the same attacks as within Love we have multiple gals hitting the panels. While I'm not exactly up with girl talk, dude over here people - don't believe the rumours, Hayden Fryer throws down some believable dialogue that should appeal to new demographics who perhaps haven't dialled into previous Fryer outings.
Taken in its totality the book works very well from an outstanding script that should have most Readers jiving to the plot being laid down, with possibly one exception. Caleb Marcus has a few anger management issues, but given the set of circumstances he gets hits with even a saint could be forgiven for being miffed with things. Clearly Hayden Fryer is building on this aspect, he leverages that part of Marcus' character throughout Love to good effect, Marcus is reaching breaking point and is on the verge of lashing out against his friends. However the character Carlie is slight more perplexing, and hence the one exception mentioned. She has just dumped Marcus, by the use of texting, is on about freedom and then jumps on the first dude she runs into at the local Nightclub. Now I don't want to cast aspirations here, but the term "bitch" comes to mind followed by one starting with "s", and a few other choice words. At this stage I'm not sure if maybe Hayden Fryer hasn't tried to shoehorn in a few too many plot developments than the book demands, or that he has a distinct purpose in those developments. For sure Caleb is well developed so quite possible it's all part of the master plan.
I was more than happy with the script that keeps things rocking along and builds the central conflict. There's an eye to detail being shown and a notable story telling vibe that should have even occasional comic readers biting at the bit to get into Love. Full marks, we could be onto something quite exceptional here.
Turning to the artwork, Hayden Fryer fans take note, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there's a real Rubenisque feeling to the panels. Hayden Fryer like most Australian comic book artists has his own distinct style, and with Love demonstrates he has really become comfortable with his "voice". The emotion, action, and latent violence are all brought across in some of the best panels Fryer has ever created. This is far different from the art Fryer has become known for through the Billy Demonslayer saga so expect to be shocked y'all, though the apple hasn't fallen too far from the tree. If you grooved to Hayden Fryer's previous books then you are going to be across this one.
So we're talking black, white, and grey shadings throughout the book with each panel just dripping in meaning. The final panel of Love pretty much sums things up, Caleb is facing more of his personal demons but the backdrop of curtains is turned, via the use of light and dark, into almost flames mirroring the character's internal mental landscape. It's a striking use of technique that Hayden Fryer can justifiably feel proud about.
I'm getting a good feeling about this graphic novel already, it reads well, looks great, and gets the story happening effectively. Hayden Fryer might just be turning in the graphic novel of the year, and I don't say that lightly folks, there are plenty of competitors in the market space including the likes of Tom Taylor, Justin Randall, and Paul Bedford. At this stage I'm not entirely sure I have it picked where things are going, we might be going to hit a strong drama or we might not, but I'm not overly concerned as Love is strong enough to whet your appetite for more. Full recommendation folks, this is one graphic novel that you will be dirty on yourself if you miss.
Darkest Night Act One: Love should be available via Siberian Productions in due course. As of writing not seeing the book listed. You'll have to check it out for yourself.