Abe—Wrong for All the Right Reasons

    (Top Shelf, 2001)
™ and © Top Shelf

Creator Glenn Dakin has been carrying the character of Abe Rat in his mind for some time. Over the years, as the mood has struck him, he’s put to paper a number of short chronicles of Abe or his alter-ego, Captain Courageous. And these stories are undistilled and unapologetic representations of Dakin’s emotions.

Which is a big reason this graphic novel doesn’t quite work. The stories are just too stripped-down and bare. It seems that the printed versions of Dakin’s stories are straight from the bar napkins he sketched them on. The novel is not read quickly, due to the amount of narrative and dialogue, which is lettered in a manner that’s hard to read. And the art consists of little more than rough sketches offered in a lot of small panels, which makes the 176-page volume all the more difficult to get through.

There is a reward for those who can overlook all that. Through his characters, Dakin makes funny and dead-on observations. Quips such as “… get a group of … people together and somebody has to organize something” are brilliant in a Jerry Seinfeld kind of way. And Dakin’s switches from line art to graytones, from narration to poetry, from comedy to bleak desperation do a nice job of conveying his emotions. But many readers won’t have the patience to care.

This is like building a deck on a summer house: lots of work, limited enjoyment. For die-hard indy fans only.

— Jim Johnson

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