The Ticking

Renee French, Author, Renee French, Illustrator . Top Shelf $19.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-891830-70-9

French's work always splits the difference between cuteness and revulsion, and her new graphic novel is both the sweetest and the most stomach-churning thing she's ever drawn. Budding artist Edison Steelhead is a grotesquely deformed boy—his eyes are on opposite sides of his head—whose mother died in childbirth. His father wants Edison to get radical plastic surgery. After Edison refuses, his father brings home a "new sister" for him, Patrice, who's a bug-eating chimpanzee in a baby-doll dress. Then things get really weird. Edison heads off to seek his fortune in the city, his father continues to try to get him to hide or change his face, and the book's point becomes less and less its plot and more French's astonishing artwork—just a small, wobbly-bordered panel or two on each page, rendered in feather-soft pencil textures. Edison's bildungsroman involves a bunch of exquisitely rendered symbolic motifs: flies, fishing lures, tweezers, dismal hotel wallpaper and some gruesomely sexual-looking geoducks. Miraculously, French keeps The Ticking 's tone deadpan and charming, with laconic captions and long silent sequences—even the grossest moments are played for nervous giggles. She's an inimitable and masterful stylist, a kind of Edward Gorey who draws out the whimsical side of body-horror. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/23/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
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