Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006

Kings in Disguise by James Vance and Dan Burr (W. W. Norton)

Finally reprinted after a long absence, writer Vance and artist Burr's Depression-era novel can now be discovered by those who missed it in the late 1980s. It tells the coming-of-age story of Freddie Bloch, a 12-year-old kid who hits the railcars in search of the father who walked out on him. On the way he meets Sam, a hobo in search of a purpose, and together they explore America's underbelly of rural and urban poverty. Completely devoid of the sentimentality that burdens many such stories set at that time, Burr's detailed black and white drawings and Vance's sensitive characterizations keep Kings in Disguise deeply credible and compelling. A groundbreaker of form when it first appeared, Kings in Disguise remains one of the best graphic novels ever published.