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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/03/2005 Archived Entry: "Graphic novel review: Spiral-Bound: Top Secret Summer"

Spiral-Bound: Top Secret Summer
by Aaron Renier
Top Shelf Comics

Review by Kathryn Ramage

So, you're a shy little elephant named Turnip living in an average small town with your dad (who makes a mean peanut stroganoff) and you dream of being an astronaut. Your new best friend, a hound-dog named Stucky, has a crush on the girl who sat two seats ahead of him in school; she's a bunny-rabbit with journalistic ambitions, and becomes the 'cub' reporter for an underground newspaper run by a dryly humorous and old-fashioned hipster tortoise. You're taking a summer art class--the teacher, Ms. Skrimshaw, is a baleen whale who gets around on dry land in an enormous water-filled globe on a giant tractor--and you have to come up with a good idea for a sculpting project.

Could be just your usual summer vacation, hanging around, listening to your favorite band, and having fun, but the local community is an uproar over rumors and sightings of a monster that lives in the lake, and you and your friends begin to stumble onto clues that something very mysterious is going on around town...

Welcome to the world of Aaron Renier's Spiral-bound.

Despite the unusual cast of characters and wild plot, this graphic novel (drawn on what looks like the lined pages of a spiral-bound notebook, complete with doodles on the cover and a pencil shoved down the spine) has a genuine small-town-life feel to it; it could almost be Mayberry RFD as played by various animals. Renier presents the way children interact with each other and adults nicely, capturing their diffidence, their naivete, and their smart-mouthedness. The story is nicely done too, with the separate plotlines weaving in and out between each other until it all comes together at the end. We also occasionally slip into Turnip's space-faring fantasy-life with Calvin-and-Hobbesesque ease--although Turnip's real life is pretty weird anyway, and there were a couple of points where I wasn't sure whether or not what was happening was supposed to be "real." For example, when the truth is revealed about the monster in the pond, and Spiral-bound's conclusion takes a turn into the truly bizarre (and wonderfully sweet as well as funny).

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