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Palookaville 24 by Seth

Graphic Novel Review: ‘Palookaville 24’ by Seth from Drawn+Quarterly

Palookaville 24

Palookaville 24 by Seth, published by Drawn and Quarterly, brings together an expansive range of creative projects into one flowing volume. Seth, the cartoonist who has produced the Palookaville comic strip since 1991, is known for his melodramatic perspectives and deeply introspective characters. His comics read like a having a conversation with an old-souled stranger, the kind who touches your life only once but leaves a lingering fingerprint in memory for all time.

Palookaville 24 begins with autobiography with “Nothing Lasts.” Serialized, the story picks up with Part Four, where Seth details summer jobs in his teen years. The comic tells of the young artist working at a seafood restaurant that overlooks the water and loops back on a digression about his first job, running errands for the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Each page is packed with as many as 20 panels breaking the storytelling down to every small aspect with a multitude of characters, settings, and sensations that build to the overall feeling of the job. The wealth of details hardly languishes in a rambling story, however. The pieces, of subjects like stern Mrs. Baker, the frightening mother of the restaurant owner, come back in significance, such as the owner’s wife assuring Seth not to be afraid of her, opening a conversation that flows into becoming overly familiar.

Palookaville 24 by Seth

After “Nothing Lasts,” Palookaville 24 continues with a surprising turn into film with a recorded “suitcase theatre play.” Rarely do graphic novels come with a DVD in the back inside cover, but here it unfolds like a hidden treasure hinted at by a few photographs of the production with director Luc Chamberlane. A forward explains Seth’s fascination with puppet shows, inspired by the Calder’s Circus short film that brought the puppetry of Alexander Calder’s circus pieces to life.

Seth sets forth his own ambitious project, “The Apology of Albert Batch,” looking back on the last moments of the life of a cartoonist just as Socrates’s apology did for the old philosopher. Seth declares “I’m no puppeteer,” though he does a few movements throughout the action. For the most part, it is a narrated display of tiny objects, almost a comic brought to life with vocals instead of captions to explain the significance. The hand-crafted pieces draw in a procession of characters from Batch’s life, ex-wives and estranged children and infuriated former colleagues and detached friends who really only know him golfing. Throughout, it is very much an example of Seth’s work, yet in a surprising form that suits well.

Palookaville 24 by Seth

The third part of Palookaville 24 is a creative experiment drawn from Seth’s “Sketchbook Thirteen.” First comes a four-column, two-page extensive list of flower names from McConnell’s 1967 flower catalogue. The experiment follows with hand-drawn rules for an exercise where he will pick flower names and create a short story using them as a title. The next pages are filled with Seth’s richly inked noir. “Blue Delft” shows a protagonist wandering lost in narrow streets, for example. And “Juliette” describes a run-down mansion packed with mysteries no one in town wants to discuss. Each suits Seth’s haunting philosophy well.

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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