Comic Review: Swallow Me Whole

Swallow Me Whole
Written and Drawn by Nate Powell
Top Shelf Productions
Release Date: October 29, 2008

I tried to write a nice little intro paragraph for Swallow Me Whole, but rather than write something flowery and overtly descriptive, I decided to just cut right to the chase. Swallow Me Whole is one graphic novel that you should pick up above all other comic books out there.

Written by Nate Powell , Swallow Me Whole tells the tale of two step-siblings, Ruth and Perry, and how each of them deals with growing up in the suburbs and with their similar mental diseases. Ruth thinks that the dead insects she collects are alive and Perry thinks the wizard on the top of his pen is talking to him and compelling him to draw. Relying on each other to keep one another sane, Ruth and Perry do the best they can to keep each other’s demons in check and hope that there is light at the end of this rather dark tunnel.

I was not familiar with Nate Powell’s work up until I read this but there is a reason that this won an Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Novel. It is a great read. The story is nicely paced and the dialogue is realistic. He also creates some nicely relatable characters in Ruth and Perry. You really get attached to them as the story goes on and even hope that they can overcome their issues. But like real life, the ending of a story is really just a beginning. There are no tidy, quick fix solutions.

Powell’s art, while simplistic in design and execution packs quite a punch. It adds a lot of layers to the story and is real gorgeous to boot. While I was reading the story, I couldn’t help but compare his work to that of Blanket‘s artist Craig Thompson. I can’t wait for Powell’s next work. If it is half as good as this, he will hit the mainstream comic scene in no time.

Like the movie Donnie Darko, I do not think that there has been another comic that has touched me in the way that Swallow Me Whole has in a long time. The story, the characters, and the ending stays with you long after you have finished it. This is not just a great graphic novel. It is a great story, period. So do yourself a favor and put down those Dark Reign or Blackest Night crossovers and let this thought-provoking graphic novel by Nate Powell swallow you whole.

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