Missouri Boy is a recent release by First Second Books of a collection of comic stories by writer/artist Leland Myrick, which came about when Myrick decided he would adapt some poems he wrote into comic book form. The transition from mere poetry to sequential art is made seamlessly, presenting a powerful auto-biographical work with strong art that I think perhaps suffers just a bit from formatitis.
Here, the format at hand is the progressive narrative. You see, Myrick’s poems were written about various points in his life, but that’s all they were intended to be – glimpses into times in his life. I do not believe he wrote them in time order, yet that is how they are presented in this volume. 1961, 1967, etc.
When presented this way, it invariably leads the reader to take a “narrative” approach to the story, when that is not the intent of Myrick at all. He is only meaning to give us glimpses into his life. But by placing them in progression, it appears like we are being told a narrative – and since we’re NOT, it seems like a promise is being left unfulfilled. I think perhaps it would have been a better idea to not place the stories in progression.
Besides that small problem, this book is a delight. Myrick’s art reminds me of Seth Fisher a bit, the way he manages to capture the uniqueness of human faces while still drawing everyone in a similar style (after all, they ARE all humans). On the writing side, Myrick has the poems be captions, while he adds dialogue where he deems it necessary (often, he avoids dialogue period, while in a couple of stories, the poem is almost non-existent, with the story being told almost entirely with dialogue).
It is quite interesting how well the poetry works with the comic art. I am often irritated when media are added as captions, as it often seems pretty cheezy (like when Jeph Loeb uses speeches for captions), but here, the poetry works in well. Perhaps it is just that Myrick’s poetry is particularly expressive, perhaps he is just a good adapter, I don’t know. I just know that it works quite well.
I would recommend this graphic novel.
I am impressed with the acuteness that he manages to hit certain feelings in everyday life. Shame, hope, excitement – all typical occurances during our lives, but at the time, they hold different meanings, and it’s these meanings that often get lost to time-weathered minds, but Myrick does a nice job of evoking the memories of childhood (and adolescence).
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