Friday, June 30, 2006

Graphic Novel Review: Spiral-Bound

You can’t help but get pulled into the fertile imagination of Aaron Renier’s mind. Spiral-Bound is a graphic novel that is an all-age, eclectic world of cartoon animal, lovable characters. There have been several times that I had to pause and gawk at the imaginative and creative genius that Aaron concocts in his “top secret summer”.

The cover alone lets the reader know that he’s about to embark on something special. I was captivated and amazed by the 3D depiction of an actual spiral-bound cover reminiscent of the ones we had back in The Day. It even shows a pencil bound in the spiral wiring that loops around the spine of the book! The price tag looked so realistic that I tried peeling it off of the cover, not realizing that it was part of the cover! The rounded corners of the cover were the artistic coup de grace!

Inside the covers the artwork really stands out. While the artwork appears to be targeted for a younger audience, it also has a timeless appeal for adults that are both charming and entertaining. Given its deceptively simple line-work, the characters carry a range of emotions that jumps off the page. There are feelings of concern, thoughtfulness, shyness, selfishness and pain. My favorite scenes are some of the smaller moments in the book. When Turnip, the boy elephant stays out all night at a club with some friends, his father, a rather enormous animal angrily questions his son’s whereabouts the night before; only to soften up the next few panels over explaining, “It’s okay…I just see dinner as our time to catch up”. An example of some of the remarkable characters in a uniquely, common setting is Turnip’s art teacher, Ms. Skrimshaw. She is a whale who is encased in glass bubble filled with water carried around by a sea-buggy/tractor. You gotta see it to believe it! But, it is to Renier’s credit that he could place such wild concepts and simply convey them in the everyday, ordinary and mundane. I laughed at the scenes where our intrepid, investigative journalist and photographer made a papier-mâché version of Turnip in order to recover an important lost journal.

It is an exceptionally rare occasion where I’ve read a graphic novel and felt a lingering satisfaction at the close of the book. The book is filled with its emotional and comedic highs and lows but in the end, the reader leaves fulfilled.

Written and illustrated by Aaron Renier
Top Shelf Productions

(Originally published on

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