Tyler Page's STYLISH VITTLES is one of those books I've seen around and seen around, but haven't read. Based on the first issue of NOTHING BETTER, I think I'll have to fix that.
Page is doing a neat little plate-twirling act of depicting bad girl/good girl life in first-year college. It's easy to write bad girls and good girls as mature women; as kids still vague on some of the details, not so easy. I spent this issue mostly muttering, "Ouch." Dorms. Pep songs. Gang showers. World-weary seventeen-year-olds. Easy to do this kind of material cheaply, but NOTHING BETTER has the authority of reality in it. Like the way Roald Dahl writes books for kids, not for adults, this book, God help me, made me feel like a freshman again.
I just don't remember whether I was the bad girl or the good girl, which is probably the point.
...can't see the forest #52-53
Nothing Better #1
This new black-and-white title by Eisner nominee Tyler Page takes a look at college life through the eyes of a a studious freshman named Jane and her party-animal roommate Katherine. The two have a less-than-ideal start and the book does and excellent job of establishing their characters and initial relationship. As long as it doesnıt veer off into cliched territory this book holds a lot of promise.
The Fourth Rail.com
by Randy Lander
NOTHING BETTER #1-3
Slice-of-life is a genre that's pretty common in small press comics, but most creators find a way to put their own spin on the genre and make it their own. That's definitely the case with Nothing Better, as Tyler Page (creator of the Stylish Vittles graphic novel series) explores the notion of college in a way that contains all the usual college experience stories and an underlying story about religion, faith and the questioning of it that makes for something quite unique. Page creates a variety of interesting characters, all representing very different points of view, and manages to make them all sympathetic or at least understandable, and the resulting mix will resonate with anyone who remembers their college days, fondly or otherwise.
Probably the biggest selling point of Nothing Better for me is the complexity of the characters. At first glance, Page is creating pretty basic character archetypes, with the shy lead character, the brusque party-hungry roommate, the Jesus freak Gene, the dorky animation fan Darby, but as these characters begin to interact, the reader can see that there's more to them than that, just like there is with real people. I have my favorites and characters I don't like, of course, but I don't feel like any of the characters are one-dimensional. No characters better illustrate this point than the two arguable leads, Katherine and Jane. By the end of the first issue, I had pretty much decided that Jane was our protagonist and Katherine was little more than an obnoxious complication, but after issue two, my opinions had flip-flopped. In truth, while I have points of agreement and disagreement with both characters, and could see where I'd want to strangle either one of them in a real life situation, they're also both interesting, flawed and very realistic characters.
If the characters and the interaction of them is the most successful element of Nothing Better, a close second is the inclusion of religion as a major theme. Page has set his book at a Lutheran college, and populated it with characters on the religious spectrum from atheist to WWJD-wearing fanatic, and plenty in between. Given my own non-religious leanings, I identify most closely with Katt, but I find the intellectual curiosity combined with belief of Jane very interesting as well, and I like that Page doesn't label either the religious or the non-religious as whackos, but instead presents it all as varying degrees of belief. OK, Gene is pretty much the definition of narrow-minded zealot so far, but that's not an entirely impossible version of religion either, and we haven't really seen all that he has to offer as a character yet.
Page's artwork more closely resembles the style I'm used to seeing in comic strips than that in most comics, although he does vary his panels, having them break into one another from time to time. His art style, though, blends a fairly simple but effective sense of expression with pretty detailed backgrounds and rock solid storytelling. His comedic chops and artistic consistency aren't as strong as, say, Terry Moore, but he's in that ballpark and his work here is noticeably stronger than his work on Stylish Vittles. Certainly there's a strong level of detail at work in the pages, and the artwork sells the characters and their personalities as much as Page's writing.
If you were a fan of the late, lamented college series Undeclared, Nothing Better is probably the closest that comics have gotten to that, although Undeclared was notably more quirky and funny in its approach. In comics terms, I'd say that Nothing Better is worth a look if you're a fan of Strangers in Paradise, because while Page's approach is more grounded and realistic than Moore's soap operatic crime and melodrama, there's a similar vibe at work here. Overall, I'd say that readers who think they might be interested in a story of college life will find plenty to like in Nothing Better, which features exceptionally strong character work and an intelligent analysis of religious themes uncommon in comics today. The first issue of Nothing Better was released this week. Issues two and three are an advanced review.
From the Stack
Nothing Better #1
After an initial reading, I wasnıt quite sure what to make of the first issue of Tyler Pageıs Nothing Better (Dementian Comics). It seemed to start in a very low-key, observant place, then move rather swiftly into more melodramatic territory. By the end, differences of perspective erupt into shouting matches and slammed doors, and I admit that the comic made me laugh in places where I suspect it didnıt mean to.
After a couple of subsequent readings, Iıve decided that Iım fond of Nothing Better in the same way I am of other young-adult melodramas like Degrassi: the Next Generation. The eruptions of just-post-adolescent melodrama have the happy effect of letting me be moved while still finding them funny. The characters would hate it if they knew I was laughing at them from my old-man chair, but they donıt need to know.
The first issue follows Jane Fisher as she arrives for her freshman year at a Lutheran college. Page has good eyes and ears for the summer-camp quality of those first days of higher education independent but not, structured but solitary, and sometimes a little mortifying. Janeıs terrifyingly enthusiastic resident assistant gathers the corridor for a ³getting to know you² session (³Say your name, and one thing about yourself!²). ³My name is Jane and my roommate isnıt here yet,² is Janeıs pitch-perfect contribution.
As the new arrivals go through the stations of the freshman cross, Jane feels out of step due to her missing roomie. Katt Conner eventually arrives, but Jane isnıt particularly comforted. Katt rolls her eyes at the mixers and corridor activities. Sheıs glad to be away from her family. (Jane misses hers.) She smokes and sneaks off to less socially sedate corners of campus, dragging Jane with her. Fed up with Janeıs mild (but somewhat constant) disapproval, Katt plays a nasty prank on Jane. To her credit, Katt regrets it almost immediately and tries to clean up after, but the fallout throws Jane even further off of her freshman stride.
Thanks to Katt, Jane is late for course registration and winds up stuck in a religion class called ³The Bible for Pagans.² Katt is in it, too, and she canıt understand Janeıs disappointment. This leads Jane to wonder, with disbelief and perhaps a little terror, if Katt is ³like an atheist or something?² Glare! Shout! Slam! (Snicker.)
The tricky thing, and the thing that saves the book for me, is that the shifts in tone donıt come out of nowhere. Things do run from one to ten, but Page successfully portrays this as a function of the highly charged experience. His cast members are experiencing their first taste of independence and coming at it with different expectations. Their clashes are heightened but strangely natural at the same time. Jane didnıt expect to be stuck with some atheist art student who drinks and smokes any more than Katt was looking forward to nine months with a homesick Lutheran tight-ass. Neutral corners, and come out fighting!
I donıt know if Iım enjoying Nothing Better in precisely the way Iım supposed to, but Iım enjoying it nonetheless.
by Joe Helfrich
Nothing Better Preview Issues 1 & 2.
Tyler Page can be accused of many things, but thinking small isn't one of them. He started out in comics by self publishing his autobiography in a series of graphic novels. Stylish Vittles is three volumes long already, and he's not even close to catching up with the current state of his life, but Page is switching gears, and subjects.
His new series, Nothing Better, is about two young women, Jane and Katt, stuck together in a room for nine months in that peculiar hell known as freshman year. This is a story that's been done lots of times, in one form or anotherthrow two vastly different people into a closed environment and sit back and watch the sparks fly. So it takes some work to make another version stand out, but Page pulls it off.
Jane is the slightly more awkward side of this odd couplea quiet, good Christian girl who's very out of place in the world of parties and alcohol that Katt quickly draws her into. Katt quickly abbreviates Jane's last name of Fisher into "Fish", and the name is appropriate; Jane is really a fish out of water here, stuck in classes she didn't want, with people she doesn't understand.
While Katt fills the roll of Oscar to Jane's Felix, she has her own set of awkward moments. Trying to deal with her straight and narrow roommate and getting a job in the cafeteria show that for all her bravado, she's almost as disoriented as Jane, and perhaps less able to deal with it.
Page's art is clean and well detailed, without going to extremes. Not only are his characters distinct and easily recognizable, but he draws the environments that they move through just as wellthis is every college campus I've ever been on, from the impersonal dining halls to the odd mismatch of architecture. This makes his habit of dropping backgrounds out of some frames even more annoying. OK, it's a pet peeve of mine. But seeing people standing in front of a well rendered scene in one frame, and apparently in the middle of a snowstorm the next always distracts me from the flow of the story. Yes, it can sometimes be used as a trick to emphasize certain moments or actionsand Page does that effectively a couple timesbut usually it just seems lazy to me.
This is the best stuff Page has done yet. While I liked the first volume of Stylish Vittles, the later volumes seemed to lose focus a bit, with dream sequences and metaphysical turns that felt out of place in the larger narrative. There's none of that herejust two young women trying to come to grips with their changing lives, and each other.
Nothing Better is a ongoing series, shipping ever six weeks. The first issue is solicited in this month's Previews, and ships in November. The first two issues were already completed earlier this year when I got them at MoCCA, and the ship date for the second and third issues are already listed on Page's website, so he seems to be working well ahead of his deadlines. Check this one out.
by Johanna Draper Carlson
Nothing Better #1
The author of the original graphic novel Stylish Vittles returns with an ongoing series about two college roommates. Atheist artist Katt and religious-but-questioning Jane are going to figure out who they are and what they really believe, because that's what you do at that time in your life. Issues will come out every six weeks, and the first three are already done.
I'm a sucker for slice-of-life comics of this type -- one could almost call it an American shôjo manga, with its emphasis on girls' reactions to school life, leavened with philosophical musings. (A more obvious comparison is to something like Strangers in Paradise.) Page's art continues to improve with every project; here he demonstrates more confidence in his linework and composition. The story is involving, bringing back my own memories of being away at school for the first time -- first-year mixer, meeting the roommate, feeling alone in a crowd of people. It's familiar enough to be comfortable and different enough to learn something from.
Pipeline Review and Commentary
Augie de Blieck, Jr.
NOTHING BETTER #1-3. This is the new series from STYLISH VITTLE's Tyler Page that's set to debut this fall through Diamond. You can see the first issue's solicitation in the new PREVIEWS catalog, under publisher "Dementian Comics."
Here's the stock description of the series:
"nothing better is the story of odd-couple college roommates Katt and Jane. Katt is an atheist who's attending a Lutheran college because they have a good art program, while Jane, the pseudo-Christian, is beginning to question her beliefs for the first time. This is a story about life in college: friends, parties, late night talks, love, sex, pizza, tests, bad cafeteria food and trying to figure out who you are. It's the best time of your life. . . or is it?"
From the description alone, you can see that Page is using many of the same inspirations from STYLISH VITTLES for this story, but it feels completely different. NOTHING BETTER is more focused and more linear. VITTLES had a grand scope at times, and events just sort of followed each other along. At the end, you happened to have a satisfying story. With NOTHING BETTER, Page is working in a more classically structured mold. Each issue has a main storyline, and scenes are constructed to be pithy and dramatic, but with a helpful dose of humor. This is a story that's possibly more accessible to new readers than even VITTLES. It requires much less patience, for starters, since everything happens in shorter segments. The scope of the series isn't immediately vast. And the art is consistent throughout.
The only thing that worried me about the first two issues were how horribly lop-sided they were. Every time Katt opened her mouth to question religion, she was right. The "pseudo-Christian" (whatever that means) Jane was the one Page spent all his writing time picking apart. Given some of the topics covered in STYLISH VITTLES, it's not surprising to see the author feature a character whose mission is to poke holes in the religious. (One might question her sanity for going to a religious school, but that's the plot point you need to buy so that you can enjoy the rest of the series.) While I'm sure this will appeal to many, there are still people reading comics who are religious. They'll be slightly relieved to see Katt get a couple of questions thrown her way in the third issue that she can't easily answer.
I should also note, to be fair, that Page is generally respectful of religion in the book. This isn't a name-calling screed against any deity. Katt is using logic and asking questions that aren't exactly new to religion. Jane's inability to answer them all in a convincing way is more an example of her growing up in this lifestyle without ever needing to answer those questions. College is, after all, a learning experience.
There are some stereotypes and some broad clichés in the book, but it looks like the most interesting and multidimensional character is the series' lead, Jane. If you're going to focus your character development on one character, then it's a very good idea to pick the protagonist.
Along with the new focus comes some new art stylings. Page is more settled on a single style throughout this book. If you read the third volume of VITTLES, you'll recognize a lot of it. It's trying much less to be photorealistic. This is more cartoony stuff, with a healthy dose of some manga inspiration thrown in. While this isn't trying to throw speed lines in for their own sake, I think the subject matter and the pace of the book might appeal to the more manga-friendly reader who doesn't necessarily look outside the small digest sized books from TokyoPop and that ilk.
Check out, also, the cover designs for the book. I love the way they share elements, but all look completely different. The first issue's orange color, in particular, should help separate it from the other comics on store shelves in November.
NOTHING BETTER is a $2.95 on-going series, designed to come out on a regular schedule. With three issues in the can already, I think Page is well on the way.
Comic World News Reviews
by Michael May
Nothing Better #1-2
Written and Illustrated by Tyler Page
The follow-up to Page's autobiographical Stylish Vittles graphic novels, this series is another college drama. Maybe it's just me, but I don't know why more people aren't doing college dramas. There's so much material there with the new-found independence, trying to create your identity in the world and separate your ideals from that of your parents. Add in all of the romantic prospects, financial worries, concerns over the future, and friendships that come and go with new class schedules and roommate assignments; youıve got fodder to last for years. Four of them, at least. I'm not sure how many issues of Nothing Better Page is planning, but from the two already done (and being solicited in Previews this fall) it looks like he's prepared to make full use of the opportunities the setting provides.
Pipeline Reviews and Commentary by Augie de Blieck, Jr.
STYLISH VITTLES: FARE THEE WELL is the third volume in Tyler Page's semi-autobiographical romantic comedy. This one shifts gears from the previous two volumes. We already know Tyler and Nanette are together, in love, and inseparable. Going into this volume, we know trouble is coming, as Nanette is about to leave for a prolonged period of time overseas. While there are inklings of that trouble here, that's not what this book is about. This book is about getting us to that point -- the major turning point of Nanette's departure.
We won't know the consequences until the next book. It's not that this book is treading water, but that there's not a whole lot of growth in their relationship this time around. We do meet, however, both their families, and are treated to a more comedic book than usual. Tyler's attempts to drive all over the Midwest to follow Nanette around are laced with the kind of material you might expect in a romantic comedy movie sequence. It's also heart-wrenching, as you know how much he has invested in getting from Place A to Place B.
Page's art continues to morph to accept the demands of his story. This time, he works in a bit more of a manga feel as necessary. We don't get full blown chibis here, but extreme expressions are seen with toothy heads and cartooned-up faces. It helps with some of the more comedic portions of the book, as Tyler tries desperately to keep up with Nanette, and to make time for her in his schedule before she goes away. The rest of the book is a bit more restrained. An opening montage to help recap some of the story from previous volumes doesn't attempt to compare to the scope of the opening from the first volume. Nor should it have to. The sequences set in outer space between the protagonists also continue. They're a bit artsy, compared to the rest of the book's more grounded feel, but they've always been there and so don't jump out too badly at the reader.
I thought the most interesting part of the book was Tyler's growing disconnection from his family. As he creates his own life at school, complete with his own family and girlfriend, the family he returns to for the holidays seems strangely affected. The stresses that we blind ourselves to as children are shown to us as mature and more knowledgeable adults. Things we didn't realize were abnormal or wrong, suddenly are. So it goes with Tyler's medicated younger brother, unemotional father, and almost completely detached mother, who busies herself with her cooking and tries to maintain the peace as if none of the strife surrounds her. It's fascinating and brutally honest. Autobiographical artists have the worst of it -- spilling your guts out like this can't be easy, and keeping an honest and detached eye to the whole thing is even tougher.
FARE THE WELL is the thinnest volume of the three STYLISH VITTLES trades so far at 184 pages. It's only $13 for the black and white volume. While the events hold up on their own in this trade, I'd still recommend picking up the first two volumes first. They're all worth reading. Grab what you can.
Comics Buyer's Guide
by Jim Johnson
(Originally appeared in CBG #1515)
In this lengthy autobiographical tale, creator Tyler Page makes the most of the two hundred pages he has allotted to himself. Page takes the time to leisurely and thoroughly chronicle his days as an art student, specifically his slowly-blossoming relationship with a fellow student named Nanette. Walking a fine line between detail and tedium, he chooses a pace that matches that of his relationship; relaxing, yet brisk and refreshing, making for an equally-refreshing and thoughtful graphic novel. The book's length allows for more than just a gradual unfolding of his story; it also gives Page the opportunity for some extended sequences that not only enhance the story but further clarify his point of view. For example, his pantheistic beliefs are evident in the book's opening sequence, which begins with a shot of a star-filled galaxy. Over the next several pages the scene zooms through the Milky Way, past the moon, through the clouds, and finally directly into Page's art studio. And it's his beliefs that lead to some early tension in his and Nanette's relationship. The chemistry between the two characters is the focal point, and it's what Page conveys best. So well does he portray this, in fact, that when conflict arises in their previously-idyllic love affair, it hurts to read. Anyone who's ever been serious about someone will relate. But while painful in spots, Page's writing is also touching and inspirational. Highly recommended.
PRO: Superbly-paced love story.
CON: But sometimes love hurts.
by Alisdair Stuart
(originally appeared december 5, 2002)
Certain things grab you by the lapels and refuse to let go. the opening ten minutes of the hole, the first line of any 87th precinct novel and the opening chords of no one knows by queens of the stone age all do it for me. that spark where you sit up a little straighter and realise that this one is aimed squarely at you. i met a girl does exactly the same thing. 'cinematic' is the single most over used cliché in comics but there really is no other word to describe how this opens. we go from the outer reaches of the universe to tyler, sitting at his drawing desk and looking straight at us. the first line of dialogue is:
'this is where the story ends."
boom, you've got me, plain and simple.
i met a girl isn't just visually impressive either. it's something that's still far too rare for comics' own good, a genuinely personal, autobiographical story that isn't indie navel gazing. this is the story of what happened when tyler met a girl and in turn how meeting that girl got him to write, draw and publish the book. like he said, this is where the story ends.
except it doesn't. the hardest thing to do with any story is capture the rhythms of day to day life convincingly, especially when that's all you've got. i met a girl features no explosions, no giant robots (well more fool tyler - ed)and absolutely no tracks by aerosmith. it's just the story of how tyler met nannette at university, what their relationship became and what that started to mean for both of them. in short, this is a story about commitment, and how frightening it is when it first arrives.
that sound you can hear is people running for the hills by the way. which is a shame because they'll miss a superb piece of graphic literature. tyler has a refreshingly open, friendly visual style that's inventive and easy to follow at the same time. more importantly it's expressive in a way which uses the whole page, as demonstrated by that opening crash zoom and how tyler presents the relationship. it's often very funny, with the modern tyler presenting 're-enactments' of key moments, complete with visible boom mikes and newspapers being lowered 'into shot' on fishing line.
there's a great deal more here than just visual trickery though. page has an eye for detail which really drives the story home. tyler and nannette's glasses clack together when they kiss for example, and the excuses they find to hang out with one another are both convincing and romantic. in fact this is a very romantic comic, and none of it's overplayed or plucks the heartstrings unnecessarily.
this is particularly true of the final few scenes, where the relationship faces its first real test. tyler and nannette discover they have hugely different views on religion and this drops them into a flatspin which is unresolved as this, the first volume, closes. it's a serious issue but it's not dealt with as a serious issue. instead, you simply get a disagreement between two people, both of whom have entirely valid points of view.
everything about i met a girl works. it's well written, deeply romantic and has the sort of self-awareness that far too many comics aspire to and far too few achieve. tyler page's story, in every sense of the word, is one which you need to read as well as one that tyler needs to write more of. hugely recommended.
by matthew price for the oklahoman
(Originally appeared Januar 3, 2003)
Comics made headlines in 2002 after the first nationwide "Free Comic Book Day" and film hits based on comic books including "Spider-Man" and "Road to Perdition." Plus, graphic novels continue to get wider coverage and respect in mainstream America. The following are the 10 best comics or graphic novels for 2002, leading off with a graphic novel written by an Oklahoman.
9. "Stylish Vittles" by Tyler Page; published by dementian comics. Tyler Page's autobiographical comics cover the beginning of his relationship with girlfriend Nan while both were in college. The freshness and honesty of "Stylish Vittles" put it among the year's best.
Pipeling Reviews and Commentary
by Augie de Blieck, Jr.
(Originally appeared September 20, 2002)
On the flip side of SUBWAY SERIES is a book that debuted in San Diego this year. It's a 208 page black and white original graphic novel called STYLISH VITTLES: I MET A GIRL. This is cartoonist Tyler Page's autobiographical tale of his romance at a mid-west college. His attitude, viewpoint, and experiences fall much more in line with my own than the characters in Leela Corman's book.
The story begins as Tyler starts his senior year in college as an art major. A chance second encounter with the girl-next-door type on campus leads to a strong friendship and, eventually, romantic relationship. Page takes the reader through every step of the often-torturous process of two people getting to know each other when each is hiding the affection they hold for the other. He's honest about his own faults, his own trepidations, and all the little stupid (in retrospect) things that go into forming a relationship like you see in the book.
STYLISH VITTLES is more a world like my own than SUBWAY SERIES. It's a world in which the lead character isn't just bed-hopping. It's a world where friendship is a part of dating, and getting to know people is more important than just finding out their astrological sign at a rave while both parties are stoned. It's the kind of story that gives me hope that it can happen to anyone.
The book is loosely broken down into chapters, with each showing us another step in the relationship as Tyler and Nanette grow closer. It's all the small quiet moments that bring a smile to your face as you realize these two people are destined for each other. They are two likable characters who you can't help but root for as they circle each other.
Page's storytelling is easy to follow. While he doesn't stick to a grid with his panels, the overlaps are slight and the order they're to be read in is obvious. A non-regular comics reader would have no problem with the book.
Dialogue in the book sounds natural, and the talking heads scenes don't drag things down. They're the highlight of the book. Page is not afraid to let the scenes play themselves out, or to add a little bit of comedy or drama with a shift in artistic style for a panel or two. He even uses a few examples of the kind of narrative device you might remember from TITUS, where the lead character steps into a new backdrop for a moment to make a point. When Tyler talks about being in the entertainment capitol of the world, for example, he's suddenly awash in a spotlight on an otherwise dark stage, unknown to his friend standing next to him.
Page begins the book with one of the most insane zoom-ins I've ever read in the comics medium. Picture the opening of the movie CONTACT. Now picture it in reverse. Times two. In bold two-page splashes, Page pushes in from the furthest edge of the universe, through the galaxies to the Solar System to the moon and earth, to his cubicle, to his drawing table, and to his Escher-esque hand drawing his hand. The first words appear on page 47. "This is where the story ends," he says, and I was gripped. Anyone who has the audacity to try to pull off that opening has my attention. Like everything else in the book, it's not for nothing. The end of the book reflects back on this opening. It's not done in a direct and painfully obvious way in an attempt to gain closure, but it's there thematically.
The rest of the book is more densely packed than the opening. It's not all double page spreads. Page has an approachable art style that mixes art school training with cartoonist's license. He's capable of finely cross-hatched pen and ink art when he wants to, but he chooses to illustrate this story in a more free style, relying on a mostly thin line. He has a bit of a problem in drawing characters whose heads are too large, but after awhile you chalk it up to style and it all blends together. While it's not always the most natural looking art on the planet, it's very expressive and detailed. He uses speedlines as he channels superhero comics to illustrate the rush to make the movies or run away from embarrassment. He shifts to photorealism for a full page splash in introducing the story. A morning sunrise is accentuated with almost SIN CITY-esque attention to stark shadows. It's all effective and adds strength to the story.
I only have two quibbles with the book as a whole. The first is that Page shifts narrative focus a few times from Tyler to Nanette and back. It's done well enough that it's obvious who's speaking when, but it's not necessarily good storytelling form. It might have also helped to differentiate the lettering between the two characters in those scenes where they were both narrating.
The major quibble I have with the book is an early scene in which Tyler is giving advice to a fellow art student who's suddenly found herself in love with a friend. It's right along the lines of "Go ahead and ask. What's the worst that can happen? He'll say no?" It never ceases to amaze me how some people think it's just that easy. It never is.
In any case, the book is a wonderful look at an interesting but well grounded relationship. It has its ups and its downs. The ending is a little surprising, but it does come at a natural point. It makes me very curious for the rest of the story, but it doesn't feel like the book ran out of pages. It's a very carefully crafted ending to the story with some religious elements that ties back to the opening scene. This is not the typical religious argument, either. This isn't evolution versus creationism. It's something I've never seen in comics before, and was happy wasn't used to put down any one side. You'll have to read the book to see what I mean. I hope you'd be as charmed by Tyler Page's work as I was.
Comic Book Galaxy
by Alan David Doane
(Originally appeared August 22, 2002)
Tyler Page's graphic novel is an unapologetic love story set in Page's senior year as an art student at college. Page says he is on a "journey to define" himself with this work, which focuses on the little moments of doubt and bliss that accompany a new love. Apparently autobiographical in nature, this ambitious work does an excellent job in getting the reader to invest in the characters and their relationship, and the sense of place established through Page's terrific background work depicting the campus of St. Olaf college is outstanding. Page's art-student ambitions sometimes get the best of him -- a journey through the cosmos to arrive at the college after many, many pages is a bit much -- but on the whole I found the novel engaging and irresistible.
Page's script convinces us of his growing attraction to Nanette, and the little bumps in the road of their relationship are hilarious and all too real. Page narrates the tale for the most part, and the occasional narrative switches to Nanette's POV were a little strange. Page seems to establish that this is his story then turns it over to Nanette at times; she often explains things Page never could have known at the time, which is a distracting narrative flaw, but not a huge one. The debates the couple ends up in over religion and the nature of the universe struck a chord with me, and on the whole the flow of the relationship is quite convincing.
Page's style is strongly, strongly influenced by Alex Robinson, Dave Sim and perhaps Scott McCloud, but Page's synthesis of their techniques is in the service of the story he is telling. The occasional panel struck me as odd, with the characters boldly posing superhero-style, but this seems to be meant as funny or ironic, and mostly works in the sequences in which it happens. Page's narrative honesty is quite refreshing, and reminded me of Tom Beland's True Story: Swear to God comics, where the male doesn't try to pretend he isn't a sexual being as he recounts the details of the relationship's early days.
The major flaw of this work is merely the fact that the novel ends with the words "To Be Continued." Stylish Vittles is a compelling story told well, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter in the saga. Stylish Vittles will be solicited in the September Previews (which I believe comes out next week) and will ship to stores in November. If you're a fan of Box Office Poison, Jay's Days, or True Story: Swear to God, I strongly recommend you check this out. You won't be disappointed. Grade: 4/5