Friday, April 26, 2013
Graphic Novel Review: LOST IN THE WASH
CANDLE LIGHT PRESS – @candlelightpres
WRITER: John Ira Thomas
ARTIST: Will Grant
ISBN: 978-0-9766053-9-3; paperback (February 2013)
214pp, B&W and Color, $19.95 U.S.
About six years ago, writer John Ira Thomas (Zoo Force) and artist Will Grant (The Scrounge Was Here!) first presented Lost in the Wash, a graphic novel in progress. The duo had been publishing Lost in the Wash in chapters and segments in various single-issue editions since 2007. Some of the Lost in the Wash publications were also released as convention exclusives. Now, the gothic horror tale is complete.
Candle Light Press recently released Lost in the Wash as a complete, paperback original graphic novel. In the end, the story, spread out over 189 pages, comes together as an epic of fever dreams and surreal visions. Lost in the Wash is one of the best comic books of the year 2013, and it is also a most uncommon comic book. Readers are unlikely to have seen anything similar to it.
Lost in the Wash is set in the town of Francisco, Colorado, a name the residents changed to “Isco,” in order to remove the suggestion of “France” from the town’s name. As its lead character, Lost in the Wash offers Darin Miles, a down and out loser type who retuned to Isco, the site of hardship and tragedy for his family, looking for a new start. Darin works at his Uncle Sal Miles’ “Laundromat,” which Darin calls “Laundroma” because the light on the letter “t” has gone out. Sal Miles lives in an ominous castle just up the road from the Laundromat. The castle is like a Winchester House construction project onto which Sal keeps building.
Not only does Darin have to deal with his uncle (an unpleasant man, gleefully proud of his offensiveness), but he also has to put up with jerky customers. Then, one day, something wet, wicked, and monstrous pops out of a washer and devours a contrary customer. Darin wonders if this monster in the washers is a good thing, especially if it will rid him of rude customers.
Meanwhile, there are two people, watching from the sidelines. Terisa Salazar, owner of the Asp Motel (formerly Aspen Motel), has a past with Darin. What are her feelings for him, now? Walter “Walt” Arganbright owns the Phoenix and frightens tourists with his scary stories. What does he want and what does he know? It all heads for a showdown at the event called Gothic Colorado.
From the first time I read Lost in the Wash, I found that it reminded me of the horror comics published by Warren Publishing and, especially, by EC Comics. I could see John Ira Thomas and Will Grant as a 21st century iteration of a Harvey Kurtzman-Graham Ingels team-up. If EC Comics had published graphic novels, I think that they were more likely to look like Lost in the Wash than pretty much any horror or dark fantasy titles from Vertigo or IDW.
Thomas transports us into the mind of Darin Miles, an unreliable narrator (of sorts) and then, also makes the point of view of either of three other characters: Sal Miles, Terisa Salazar and Walt Arganbright just as important. However, Thomas doesn’t cheat the reader by confusingly focusing equally on four characters. Just the opposite, he challenges and engages the readers with necessary alternate perspectives of the situation and action and of all characters.
Will Grant, who is an unknown comic book creator, proves that he deserves to be known. In Lost in the Wash, Grant’s art is a testament to the fact that a comic book artist must understand design and page layout just as much as he needs to know how to draw figures and objects. Grant’s M.C. Escher-like graphics and “Ghastly” Ingels-like compositions are a series of mosaics that will challenge your mind into vertigo. However, it is worth the effort to find what’s what in this beautiful comic book art.
Obviously, I like this book… a lot. I’m somewhat mixed about the ending, because I think this graphic novel should only be the end of a chapter, not of the entire story. Lost in the Wash is the beginning of a beautiful fictional world.
I am surprised that neither Thomas nor Grant is producing comic books for DC Comics or Marvel or even the mid-majors like Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, and IDW Publishing. Perhaps, neither Thomas nor Grant is interested, or neither has been approached. Still, Lost in the Wash is the calling card; Thomas and Grant are ready, Mr. DeMille, for their close-ups.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux