The White Elephant

    (Alternative, 2004)
™ and © Alternative Comics

Damon Hurd’s intensely personal script is adapted (but not much) or gives the appearance of adaptation from a stageplay. Framed in a psychiatrist’s office, it’s the first person account of a young man named Gene whose much–cherished family ties come undone in the wake of a horrible incident that everyone except Gene wants to gloss over. It’s not merely the ghastly realization of what happened that moves the book, it’s that other members of the family want to keep the surface water smooth to the point where they’ll keep a monster’s secrets and treat him like a normal person.

Chris Steininger’s art does much with little, packing the pages and doing a great job distinguishing characters and set pieces in a black and white book with a dark background. Setting up a play within the comic is a nice way to tinker with standard comic layout, but this is also the book’s flaw. Onstage, the entertainers are immediate to the audience. Here, they are twice removed from us. The result is that the book isn’t as emotionally grounded as it could be. Scenes designed to show just how much Gene loves his family sometimes lapse into unconvincing chat about video games. Still, devices like a visual white elephant (a tongue–in–cheek reference to Ionesco’s Rhinoceros) wandering through the scenes recognize the differences between stage and comic media, and bring the story back nicely.

— Brendan McGinley

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2 copies available from $8.99
 Damon HurdChristopher Steininger