Sunday, February 16, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: LUNA PARK

Written and illustrated in the style of a crime noir novel, LUNA PARK revolves around a man named Alik Strelnikov. Alik is a Russian who fought in the war against Chechnya. Now, he’s an enforcer for a small time thug in Coney Island. Alik has a girlfriend that he lives with, but they are rarely together. When Alik sleeps, he has nightmares about the war that often merge into nightmares about living a different life in a different place and time: the Eastern front during WWI or the city of Kiev in the 900s, for example. In an attempt to escape the pain, Alik shoots up heroin, drinks hard liquor, and listens to old Russian records. When Alik learns that his boss is about to be eliminated by a much larger criminal, he sets out to make a plan that will set everything right.

LUNA PARK isn’t a typical novel. It doesn’t follow a usual narrative structure of any sort. There are a lot of things that happen in the book that can be interpreted as visualizations of Alik’s drug-induced dreams or as illusions from his fractured psyche or perhaps they actually are events that happened to Alik. Making things even more confusing is that towards the last third of the book, things seem to take a turn towards the supernatural. The story has a shocking ending. However, the story never really builds to such a conclusion and instead spurts and sputters along the way. This unevenness taints the power of the final pages and leaves the majority of the novel feeling like a cold, damp mess.

Although the story is haphazard, the artwork of the novel is not. I found the illustrations (colored in various hues of red, greys, and blues) to be more powerful and meaningful than the actual “story” of LUNA PARK.

Overall, I found LUNA PARK to be an atypical, although confusing graphic novel. It’s a book more concerned with themes than story, but does have some brilliant illustrations.

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