Comic Fodder

White Picket Fences – A Graphic Novel

by Matt Anderson, Eric Hutchins, Micah Farritor, Brian Mead, and Tim Lattie

Okay, normally I veer towards the super hero genre or swords and sorcery or sci-fi stuff, but occasionally someone asks me to read something a little bit different. Why, oh why can’t I say no? I’m such a sucker. Turns out, it wasn’t so bad after all. Welcome to White Picket Fences.

The focus is on three boys in the suburbs, Charlie, Tommy, and Parker, and the various adventures that seem to fall into their lap. Man, my neighborhood was never half as weird as this place! Three stories fill out this graphic novel, and the end result is a good read for the younger generation. The art would be more than passable if this was just a webcomic. The details and attention to background, panel consistency from one scene to the next, all show the effort put into giving the audience a good story. The overall look has a slightly videogame-turned-comic kind of feel to it. It’s not as intricate as half the super hero art I see, but it’s great for the genre, and better than a couple of things I’ve read in the past month from DC and Marvel.

The first story centers on a mad scientist and his efforts to re-create the age of the monster. The tale is entertaining, but there is a disconnect with the mad scientist as he rants to captive Charlie: “Knowledge and understanding have replaced the mysterious splendor of the unknown with the blinding light of science.” This guy is complaining that scientific knowledge and awareness has reduced the collective fear of people because they understand more… but in his attempt to create mummies and werewolves and the like… he had to use science. There is no difference between his reference to abominations of science and his own monstrous concoctions, so older readers who catch on might be confused by any alleged difference between his monster creations and the others that he rails against. It is very important for a motivation to hold up in a story, and this one doesn’t quite make sense. It’s possible there is a way to explain this, but it needed to be presented in the story itself, it does no good to have to go to a website later and learn what the author was thinking, and how the mad scientist’s creation differ from the creations of all the other mad scientists.

The rest of the storytelling is much better. They do a good job of introducing each character, making each of them individually recognizable, and using their names to help the reader learn to identify with each one throughout the entire story. The dialogue is fairly natural, considering some of the topics of their adventures, with none of the current slang like internet abbreviations or colloquialisms like, “my bad” to spoil the small-town setting.

The second story concerns what the boys want to be when they grow up. What follows is a well-drawn insight into the minds of these youngsters, full of ambition, imagination, and adventure, just like we all used to think, before we grew up and got soul-crushing day jobs that sucked all life out of us. Brian Head does the illustration for this part, and it works very well.

The last story is called “Beetle-Mania,” and it has a slight problem at the very beginning. The science teacher injects a fruit with a substance that makes it grow. He talks about how this could erase the food problems in the world, if only the fruit did not become radioactive. The problem? The science teacher is in front of a class of kids, and he now has a giant, deadly radioactive fruit right behind him on his desk. Run kids! Run!! It is for reasons like this and the motivation problem in the first story that these tales do not stand up to professional scrutiny, and would not be acceptable for mature readers, who would be jarred out of the story and sit there scratching their heads, wondering how in the world this could possibly be.

The rest of the tale is a delightful romp in escapist fantasy, filled with radioactive monsters and PG destruction scenes. Without knowing in advance the intended audience of this graphic novel, the art styles and story structure all call for a reading audience about the age range of 7 to 12, I would guess, so if you’re trying hard to think of a birthday present or other type of gift for someone, something that has them read is always recommended. If the writers can devise a tale without some of the obvious drawbacks mentioned above, they could craft their stories for older audiences. Except for the couple of times a story flaw interrupted the flow of the book, I quite enjoyed it. I’m not sure if it matters to younger readers or not, but there is a glaring absence of girls in the book, so maybe if they could introduce a female or two into the group, it might find broader appeal among young female readers.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.