“Hooking up words and phrases and clauses”
Titan Comics brings us The Junction, which is by Norm Konyu. For some reason, it’s “suggested for mature readers.” I mean, it’s not a kiddie book, but there’s nothing really that objectionably horrific in here. Weird. Let’s check it out!
With some comics, I know I’m going to like them – either I like the creators or the synopsis is just so cool that it’s impossible to mess it up. But with others, I’m not sure. I never heard of Norm Konyu before this book (he’s an animator, and this is his first comic), and the story – a missing boy returns to his town 12 years after going missing, but he hasn’t aged – is intriguing but not fool-proof. So I really wasn’t sure what I would be getting with The Junction. But I’m glad I did get it, because this comic is superb. Which is nice.
The story is simple: in 1984, 11-year-old Lucas Jones and his father, Roger, disappeared from the quiet town of Medford, and 12 years later, Lucas shows up – sans father – without having aged. He goes to his uncle and aunt’s house, and they take him to the police, who establish that he is definitely Lucas, but he’s not very talkative, and his diary makes no sense, as it jumps back and forth in time, seemingly, and only covers a few months in the year (but the actual year is never listed). The cops get a psychologist to talk to Lucas, and gradually, we learn his story. He claims he was in a town called Kirby Junction, where he lived with his mother and father, but the town is a bit strange, and weird things keep happening and weird people keep showing up. Lucas gets curious, especially because it’s clear that his parents are hiding something from him. He decides he’s going to find out what it is.
I’m not going to spoil anything, although it’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on, because that’s not really Konyu’s point. This is a book about family, and what that means, and what people will do to hold onto their family and carve out a life for themselves with that family. Lucas has to decide where his family is and what that means to him, and his difficulty with that choice is the heart of the book. It’s also a story about losing something – Lucas disappears, so he’s lost, but he also experiences a loss, and the book is about dealing with that loss and how people do that. Konyu doesn’t really offer us any good solutions, which is part of the power of the book. When Lucas returns, he finds that the world has completely passed him by – he’s supposed to be 23, but he’s still 11, and he has no friends, and his aunt and uncle don’t know how to relate to him, and his now 25-year-old cousin is freaked out by him, and the psychologist and cop handling his case don’t understand what’s going on. But as we see his life in Kirby Junction – whether it’s a real place or in his imagination – it’s fraught with creepiness, as well. Lucas doesn’t know where he belongs, and while the book is not exactly a tragedy, the ending is ambiguous because it can be argued that Lucas does the absolutely wrong thing. But that’s what Konyu is doing – he’s looking at impossible choices, and making the best of a situation, and trying to find your place. Maybe it’s “wrong,” but it’s also yours. It’s ambiguous, but true, and that’s partly why the book works so well.
Konyu is an animator, and he uses Photoshop to create his art, so it looks very much like animation, as well as the art of James Turner, which I find appealing, but you may not. Generally, it’s a fairly angular style (with some rounded edges, which nicely softens the art), and the characters have very little on their faces, but Konyu does a lot with the placement of tiny eyebrows and the tilt of the characters’ heads to convey the complex emotions they’re feeling, and it’s quite amazing. His depiction of Kirby Junction is wonderful – it’s a quaint, charming town, but just the way Konyu designs it makes it feel as if something is slightly off about it, and it adds to the low level of anxiety that Lucas feels in the town. The colors are terrific, too – he creates watercolor effects to give the characters a softer, more human look, and he does a good job making the color of Kirby Junction – where it always seems to be autumn – a bit eerier, even though it’s not too different from the colors in Medford. It’s really an excellent-looking comic.
I’d like to write more about The Junction, because Konyu has quite a bit on his mind and it would be interesting to dig into it a bit, but that would entail spoilers, and I don’t really want to do that. Suffice it to say that the mystery, which isn’t the most mysterious thing in the world, drives the plot, but Konyu has far more on his mind than that. This is a comic about life, and what we choose to do with ours, and it’s a powerful emotional statement that might be a bit sad but also might be a bit hopeful and cheerful. The best kinds of books let you decide! This is one of the better comics I’ve read this year, so take a look at it!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆