Pulpatoon Pilgrimage

 PULP   (AdHouse, 2003)

™ and © AdHouse and Joel Priddy

One of the more critically acclaimed themes explored in independent comics in recent years is the theme of self-discovery; Craig Thompson’s Good-Bye, Chunky Rice, Rob Vollmar’s The Castaways, and Bruce Mutard’s The Bunker all touched on this in different ways, either through friendship, hardship, or relationships. Priddy quietly did his own take a couple of years ago, but, being the freshman release from then-new publisher AdHouse Books, this graphic novel went unnoticed by many.

Priddy’s take is different primarily because the quest is undertaken by a group of friends—or, at least, a group sharing the yearning for discovery as a common goal, rather than by an individual. So it’s a story told with a group dynamic, and the team’s interactions make things seem a little less desolate and lonely than a reader might expect from this kind of story. Further enhancing this dynamic is the opposing nature of this trio’s members: a Minotaur, a walking plant, and a robot, which is basically the animal-vegetable-mineral threesome brought to life with characterization. In fact, readers might draw similarities between this group and Baum’s Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man, but this time there’s no Dorothy holding them together and no Wizard of Oz to grant them what they seek.

Priddy unfolds these characters’ quest as a series of shorter stories, each a chapter focusing on one of the group that both shines light on the reasons for their pilgrimage, as well as advancing it. He also sticks to a light, breezy artistic style that provides uplift to a potentially depressing story. AdHouse has put out impressive books during its young life, and it started with this one. Check it out; it’s still in print, so no quest is needed to find it.
PRO: Satisfying story of self-discovery.

— Jim Johnson

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 Joel PriddyJoel Priddy