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It's probably fair to say that if you want to write a graphic novel that's likely to be taken seriously and given the respect it deserves, you're probably better off writing a biographical or autobiographical book than a genre piece. Unlike mainstream prose fiction and the cinema, where traditional make-it-up story-telling is king, a good proportion of the comics that have captured the critics' imaginations over the last few years have come with a healthy dose of reality. Perhaps it's because this kind of work is as far flung as it's possible to get from comics' staple genre of superheroes.
Shane White has joined the likes of David B. and Craig Thompson, writing and drawing an autobiographical story that takes us on a whistle-stop tour of his childhood. Remembered using flashbacks as he makes a physical journey back home, through airport waiting lounges and long miles behind the wheel of a rented car, White picks out the incidents that influenced his life, building the character we see making the journey.
There's a certain amount of trepidation and discomfort in the book. While confronting his emotions, White has to be brutally honest about his relationship with his family and how it's impacted on his life and irreversibly shaped his future. Comics have been another strong influence and his drawing style reflects this, with illustration that has a curiously retro feel to it, often changing in style to adapt to the mood or the distance into his past.
White's story documents a childhood that won't be vastly different to many people's experiences, as they grow up and try to make sense of the world around them. However, we felt that White's selected moment of closure ends the book too soon. Perhaps it's slightly too early in his life for him to have found the answers to all his questions; perhaps he never will. Either way we suspect that, health and inspiration willing, this isn't the end of this autobiography and we hope to see more in the future - whenever it may be.
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