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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/17/2005 Archived Entry: "Graphic novel review: Tricked"

by Alex Robinson
Published by Top Shelf

Review by Tom Good

People on Public Radio talk about "driveway moments." These are the times when motorists pull into their driveways and stop, but cannot get out of the car because the radio show is so interesting. So they sit there in the driveway until the show ends. The equivalent for books must be the "alarm clock moment." I look at the time, realize how late it is, and tell myself that I have to get up for work the next day and that I should really go to sleep. Then I keep reading anyway. That is what happened when I read Tricked. Once the story gets rolling, it is hard to put down, and at 350 pages it is not a quick read.

The book follows a variety of people who seem unconnected until their lives all intersect in a pivotal scene at the end. This type of story structure can sometimes feel forced, as if too many coincidences are required. Robinson subtly addresses this by numbering the chapters backwards, counting down from forty-nine to one. This tips off the reader that the subplots will converge on some main event. The plot also weaves together a study of the nature of fame and authenticity.

Ray is a legendary rock star trying to find the inspiration to put together a comeback album, and Lily is his muse. If Ray is a genuine celebrity, Nick is a fake one: Nick forges the signatures on counterfeit sports memorabilia. His customers crave connection to celebrity through some physical artifact, but get only an illusion. On the other hand, Ray never touched most of his official signed photos either, they were produced by an auto-sign machine in his office, making even the "real" artifacts fakes.

Steve's interest in fame is more cerebral. He is a devoted music fan whose encyclopedic knowledge of music trivia makes him feel superior, but he is also bitter, unstable, and slowly falling apart. When he reads an article about Ray's upcoming album, his obsessive mind starts to fixate on Ray. The waitress Caprice, perhaps the most likeable character, represents the average, ordinary person. And Phoebe is a sort of anti-celebrity, a shy girl who attracts so little attention she is practically invisible.

Alex Robinson draws Tricked with a flat, high-contrast style, featuring minimal shading and large areas of black and white. His character designs follow the same "less is more" philosophy, expressing a lot with a few lines. I found myself sketching some of the characters from this story while reading it, something I almost never do, but the art made me want to draw, like tapping along to the beat of a song. Tricked is a winner, and I would highly recommend it.

Warning: the remainder of this review contains plot spoilers. If you have not read the book yet, you may want to stop reading now.

The book contains a sly cultural reference. Steve becomes obsessed with an album by an artist called Zodiac Filler. The name "Zodiac Filler" is a reference to the Zodiac Killer, and one of the suspects in the Zodiac killings was Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. As Steve becomes more murderous, he puts on a hooded sweatshirt and starts to look more and more like the famous FBI sketch of the Unabomber. At the beginning of the book Steve's face has a five o'clock shadow, but by the time he puts on the sweatshirt he has grown a mustache like the one in the FBI sketch.

The best twists in the story revolve around two signatures. Steve is pushed over the edge by a signed photo of Ray he receives in the mail. Because it is "defaced" with a funny drawing and the signature does not match the ones on all his other photos of Ray, he decides it is a fake and becomes angry and confused. Ironically, this signature is actually the only genuine one; all the others came from the auto-sign machine. And when Nick feels guilty about selling Caprice a fake item, he takes it back and gives her a baseball card with a real autograph instead. But by giving away this valuable card, he starts the chain of events that leads to his own downfall. So in a story full of forged autographs, the only two real ones cause all the trouble.

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