By Max Estes
Published by Top Shelf Productions; $10.00
The manifestation of guilt in Hello Again might best be described as I Know What You Did In Last Summer's Artcomix, as the lead character is haunted by the victim of a youthful prank apparently gone far wrong in a story that hews closely to the artcomix stylings of the AdHouse/Top Shelf/Drawn and Quarterly axis. Not that this is a bad thing -- there are far worse comics out there to emulate, after all.
Guilt and redemption are the themes here, not always the easiest row to hoe on the way to creating a good, readable and entertaining graphic novel. That's why Hello Again is such a surprise: Max Estes' debut work is a minor pleasure, but it is mostly a pleasure to see him working out his story and exploring the inner and outer lives of the characters he has created.
The art seems strongly influenced by James Kochalka, but mostly in the backgrounds and page layouts. Estes' faces are perhaps a bit too simple, with not a lot of variety being utilized to convey a full range of human emotion. This is slightly distancing, and the main reason why I can't give Hello Again a more ringing endorsement. It's not a bad book by any means, though, and by the end I found myself rooting for the main character despite his recent history of some pretty abominable behaviour. Estes shows a good deal of promise, and I am definitely interested to see where his creative instincts drive him in the future. For the present, I can say that Hello Again is a pleasant, diverting if breezy read, and I like the way he draws kitties. Grade: 3.5/5
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