cover image Smoke


Gregory Benton. Alternative (Diamond, dist.), $14.99 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-934460-79-5

This follow-up to Benton’s Society of Illustrators Award–winning B+F follows a tragic day in the lives of two young workers on an industrial tobacco farm, careening between reality and their nicotine-induced hallucinations. The pair fall rapidly into a shared hallucination, in which they meet a gigantic dog who serves as a benevolent spectre of death; this is intended to be Xolo, the Aztec protector of lost souls, but Benton’s wordless approach to comics means this detail can only be gleaned by reading the cover copy. Nevertheless, Xolo—who somewhat resembles a Keith Haring dog seen through a Peter Kuper filter—guides both boys through a bizarre wilderness, alive with the same brilliant colors and strange beasts that made B+F so enjoyable to read. Heavy foreshadowing permeates the book, but it’s not so clear-cut as to rob the final vignette of its sadness. The nuance of Benton’s themes is somewhat muddled by his technique, but the mix of joyful imagination with tragic consequences secures this as B+F’s worthy successor. (Oct.)