Garbage Night, by Jen Lee. – Book Review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer
Garbage Night, by Jen Lee. Illustrated.
London, NYC, Nobrow Ltd., June 2017, hardcover $18.95 (98 pages).
Garbage Night is #2 in Lee’s Vacancy series; what Amazon calls “dystopian graphic novels”. Vacancy, #1 in the series, was published in June 2015. But Garbage Night the book includes the complete Vacancy as a bonus. Garbage Night itself is 70 pages, followed immediately by “Now read Jen Lee’s original comic, Vacancy” for 26 more pages. You should skip directly to Vacancy, read it first, then return to the beginning of Garbage Night. Be warned that it still ends with a “to be continued”.
What is going on is unexplained. The blurb for the first story says, “Vacancy explores the ways that animals think; how they internalize their changing environment and express their thoughts, fears, or excitement.” The blurb for Garbage Night says, “Juvenile animals strive to survive across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in this striking parable about the nature of freedom and friendship.” What it is is about anthropomorphic animals (they wear clothes and are bipedal) living in a deserted, humanless world.
Simon is a pet watchdog left behind when his humans disappeared. But it is obvious that what’s happened is more complex than that. The entire town shows years of having been deserted. Signs are peeling, windows are broken, cloth is rotting, roofs are falling in. Simon roams through his owners’ empty house, wishing that they’d return to fil his food bowl, but not really believing it after so long. What remains of the town has been scavenged out of food by the abandoned pets and nearby wildlife like Monica the opossum. When two forest animals pass through town – Cliff, a raccoon, and Reynard, a deer with a broken antler – Simon asks to go with them. “I need someone to show me the ropes of the wild.”
In Vacancy four hungry coyotes (also anthropomorphized) chase them back into town again. In Garbage Night the three team up with Barnaby, another dog looking for another town that is rumored to still have humans and their food.
“We were just talking yesterday, in fact, about how we’re gonna leave for that … other town! The one with all the things!”
“Ha, me too. Yeah, it’s supposed to have everything. Why don’t we go together? I know a short cut.”
At the end of Garbage Night (named for the long-gone night once a week when the humans used to set big cans of edible garbage out to be picked up), Simon, Cliff, and Reynard are on the outskirts of the semi-mythical Fallbridge. Their reactions to Barnaby, and what happened to him, are part of the story. To be continued.
Jen Lee is also the author of the semi-animated webcomic Thunderpaw in the Ashes of Fire Mountain, http://thunderpaw.co/ (Warning: it contains the same kind of flashing lights that sent almost 700 Japanese children watching Pokémon too close to the TV (almost with nose prints on the TV screen) to the hospital with mild epilectic seizures in December 1997.) Garbage Night gives her a more varied palette, even if her colors are all muted. Compare the shifting lighting from the daytime scenes on pages 22-23 to the greens within the forest on pages 38-39, the evening scenes on pages 48-49, and the full night on pages 68-69. Look at how she indicates rising or falling voices, or characters talking over each other, by her use of speech balloons; or different characters talking in the same panel by different colored balloons on pages 86-87. Subtle stuff. I want to see Vacancy #3.
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