Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Review time! with ‘Celery Stalks’

“Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m right, maybe I’m some kind of lunatic”

Celery Stalks, which claims to be “volume 1” but comes to a definitive end (I mean, there’s a possibility of a second volume, but it still tells a complete story), is by Pat Rooks and is published by Lev Gleason Comics through their imprint New Friday. Let’s take a look at it!

Usually I save these reviews for original graphic novels or things that have never been published in English before, but Celery Stalks is technically a collected edition, as Rooks did six issues of it back in 2019. Those were seriously self-published, though, so this edition feels like an original book even though it’s not, exactly. S’alright? S’alright.

This comic is kind of a combination of 1950s low-budget sci-fi and 1970s low budget horror, and it doesn’t really combine the best of both worlds. There’s an unnamed teen who looks like he’s in his 30s (many artists don’t draw adolescents well, but I’m not sure if this is that or if Rook wanted to make the teens look older to make fun of casting choices in “teen” movies or shows where all the actors are in their mid-20s or older) who lives in a foster home. He goes to a school dance where the hot queen bee wants to dance with him, but he thinks it’s a trap because she’s dating the quarterback. When he stalks out, the quarterback and his buddies show up and chase him into the forest. Something odd happens and he bonds with what looks like a giant Venus flytrap – kind of like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. Of course a sinister government agency comes after him, and of course he takes revenge on everyone who has tormented him, and it’s all very dull, unfortunately. There’s almost nothing here that we haven’t seen dozens of times before, and even the very small twist isn’t really that big of one. There’s hardly any character development, so not only is the plot kind of dull, but the characters are simply plot devices. I’d like to write something nice about the story, but other than the fact that it’s easy to follow, it just trudges along to an inevitable conclusion. It’s too bad.

Rook’s art is fine, but nothing special. His figure work isn’t too great, as some of the people have disproportionate heads or arms, and I’ve already mentioned the weirdly aged teenagers. It’s stuck in a timeless time, where the government seems very advanced but the kids look like they’re living in the 1950s, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with doing that, it does make the story feel like it’s just existing in some non-place, rather than in any kind of real world. The creature is interesting, I guess, and Rook actually does a nice job showing how it moves and kills, but even there, the figures are a bit stiff, so the violence feels posed more than fluid. It’s not an ugly book, but it’s certainly not a terribly attractive one, either.

I get bummed when DIY cartoonists do things that are as bland as the most corporate comics creations, because you’d think that the ones who have nothing to lose would go balls out all the time. Rook gives us a story that literally any writer could crank out without putting much thought into it, and that’s a shame. His art has a quirky charm to it, but it’s in the service of a boring story and doesn’t really shine too much because Rook is illustrating something with no verve. I wish I liked this more, but I don’t.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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