Sunday, January 14, 2007

Elk’s Run #1

Elk’s Run #1, 2005, Hoarse and Buggy Productions
writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
artist: Noel Tuazon
colorist: Scott A. Keating
letterer: Jason Hanley
editor: Jason Rodriguez

When I first saw the contemporary classic Napoleon Dynamite, I marveled at the film’s apparent timelessness, effortlessly synthesizing three decades of pop culture into a singular effort that undoubtedly represents “Middle America’s” transparent bubble reality. Without argument, our country’s most influential cultural trends ebb from the coasts – California and New York, specifically and respectively – and in the time it takes these influences to reach the heartland, they’ve finally adapted to the previous wave, resulting in an awkward collision of years’ worth of fads. Therein explains the essence of Napoleon Dynamite, garbed in clothes ripped from the racks an ‘80s thrift shop, but vulnerable to the music and technology that so gripped the rest of our America’s youth. Yes, with so many people talking to hot chicks on the Internet all day, I was amazed at the sheer preservation of some pockets of our country . . .

. . . but this phenomenon swings both ways. How many small towns in the middle of America virtually exist as islands in themselves, preserved by the presuppositions of a bygone era? For example, how long did that child molesting polygamist maintain his compound in Arizona before 20/20’s expose introduced his well-contained evil to the rest of the world? How long did those folks in Waco, Texas prepare for their fatal confrontation with the authorities, brainwashing one another with an ideology that the rest of the country never knew existed? As a proud resident of Southern California, news stories and modern fables like these occasionally encourage me to pull my head out of the rump that is Orange County to take a look around, to realize that we aren’t the global community the Internet gurus might have us believe. Elk’s Run is one such fable.

Elk’s Run is the apparent opposite of Napoleon Dynamite, starring a kid frustrated with his awkwardness and seclusion but really unsure of what to do about it. Rather than resort to delusions of grandeur (which were, in Napoleon’s case, hilarious), this kid wallows in typical adolescent apathy, a plot device one could find in Goonies if anywhere, except the setting of Elk’s Run presents an interesting twist that may validate our protagonist’s internal strife. Elk’s Ridge, West Virginia retains something of a cultish hold on its residents; no one leaves, and the men dominate the women with a ‘50s sitcom mentality sans the “pleasant” in their proverbial Pleasantville. In fact, when one of their own accidentally runs over and kills a friend of our protagonist’s (I can’t find his name), the menfolk reap vengeance by inflicting the same crime upon the helpless perp; yes, they run him over, with our kid’s father at the head of the pack. Witnessing this homespun act of justice, our protagonist vows to flee Elk’s Ridge, and really, who would blame him?

Elk’s Ridge is written with the verbose melodrama of a frustrated adolescent, a convincing take on an apathetic teenager wondering what else the world has to offer. Tuason’s artwork is minimal but effect, strongly supported by Keating’s colors. A back-up feature, which is basically Dilbert meets Teen Wolf, is an odd match with the feature story but an interesting light-hearted peak at what else Hoarse and Buggy is capable of. It’s decently written, also by Fialkov, and illustrated by Nate Bellegarde, with a crisp, expressive cartoony style. Really, if Michael Jackson’s Thriller was about a bookish office nerd, these guys nailed it.

Needless to say, based on the introduction of this review, Elk’s Run offers a broad scope of introspective fodder; I simply decided to opt on a comparison with other, recent stories that address the cultural bubble surrounding “Middle America.” The concepts of family and friends and the dynamics of growing up are all brewing beneath the surface of this tale, as well – virtually bubbles in their own right ready to burst with this series culminating events. Ultimately, no matter where one lives or how fast new of Paris Hilton’s Friday night wardrobe reaches them, if one is happy and feels at home in their surroundings, what else matters? Clearly, the creators of Elk’s Run feel at home with this potentially controversial material. That should make open-minded readers happy.

No comments: