When reviewing a graphic novel, I sometimes struggle with distinguishing between evaluating what the book actually is as opposed to a comparison with what I’d like it to be. It’s the difference between asking myself whether something is good on its own terms or wondering what I’d do to make it better (i.e., more to my tastes). Basically, it’s a case of reviewing versus going into fantasy editor mode.
I’m not having any luck swinging myself back into reviewer mode when it comes to Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened (Villard). I’m too busy making mental notes of what I would have done differently.
My central problem is that, while I share editor Jason Rodriguez’s fascination with these found objects, my fondness for them comes from a different place. To me, postcards represent the promise of adventure or temporary escape from routine. They’re reminders that there are more interesting places out there waiting to be seen when the day-to-day gets to be too much. No matter what’s written on the back of them, they’re messages from a less mundane place.
Rodriguez seems more interested in what postcards can say about the lives of their senders –turbulent, often grim stories that have little to do with the cheerful or elegant images that inspired them, extrapolating instead on the terse , oblique messages they carry. In the worlds Rodriguez’s creators have found lurking behind these scraps, families are torn apart, love fades, lives end, and dreams die. Only one or two stories employ what could really be described as a lighter touch. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the stories are generally executed well, but there’s such a gap between my hopes for the anthology and the creators’ priorities that I just can’t bridge it.
I blame the elephant on the cover. He’s bursting out of his frame, casting off shackles and stomping towards new experiences. He’s not stuck in an isolated farm town or waiting for death to reunite him with his one true love or forging an uneasy connection with his unstable stepmother. He’s out and doing, and it may not end well, but it will be different, and it will be memorable. I guess I just was hoping for the elephant.
(This non-review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)