Book Review : Stephen Graham Jones - My Hero (2017)
Stephen Graham Jones is a fascinating author and I suspect he's a fascinating dude, too. I've featured him on this site before. He is one of the most boundless and free creative minds working today. The man will write whatever he goddamn pleases and people buy it because he's extremely talented. So, when I was asked to review his new project, a graphic novel titled My Hero, it was a no-brainer to me. I said yes without thinking twice. Well, that didn't go like I thought it would. I enjoyed it, but P-L-E-A-S-E read this review before purchasing it. It's quite experimental and I'll do my best to break down why it was interesting without spoiling the thing.
This one won't be easy. Buckle up.
My Hero is a graphic novel without any proper graphics to speak of. I don't mean that illustrator Aaron Lovett collected a pay check without doing anything. Far from it, the book is somewhat conventionally designed. There are just words where the art should be. It's a metafictional superhero story about a kid who can't draw creating his own superhero in a blank notebook. Beyond that, I'm not exactly sure what the story of this theoretical superhero actually is. It's a little bit of a chaotic endeavor filled with non sequitur, metafictional interruptions and excited creative turnarounds. It reads like the creative journals of a twelve years old with an overflowing imagination and....and it kind of works? I thought My Hero was pretty on point for what it was.
So, what's the point of reading a graphic novel with no graphics in it? Fair question. My Hero is not an easy read by any means and it took me a couple reads to wrap my mind around it. Some pages have dialogue bubbles on them, written indications of what should be drawn in the background, some feature cliff notes and doodles. Some pages are filthy, others have coffee circle on them, to keep you guessing whether the metafictional narrator is a child or an adult. The story of My Hero is very much in Stephen Graham Jones' head and the graphic novel is one big dare to put it all together. Are you reading a superhero story taking shape in front of your eyes? Are you reading the story of a twelve years old emerging creativity? SGJ gives a little bit of context at the end of the book, but it's still very much up for you to decide what to make with My Hero.
Lots of you out there who read this will end up hating My Hero. Lots of you will finish it kicking and screaming and asking Hex Publishers for your money back. I believe they expect this kind of backlash to a certain extent. It's a book meant for Stephen Graham Jones' fans much more than for adventurous comic book enthusiasts. SGJ's colorful and vibrant narrative voice is the variable that makes My Hero a success. If you're not already familiar with it, this graphic novel may be an overwhelmingly disorienting experience for you. I liked My Hero. I took it as a good-natured challenge to my imagination. Tread lightly, though. It's definitely a book you want to open up before buying or read a sample from if you're ordering from the internet. It's not for everybody.