Farel Dalrymple has distinguished alienated youth to a high level with his comics. There is that distinctive deadpan stare from a young person confronting some great threat. We never know for sure what that young person is thinking. Are they afraid? Most likely. But putting on a good poker face will help. In “The Wrenchies,” Dalrymple’s much anticipated new graphic novel, he offers up another side of the Apocalypse filled with kids who are fighting the good fight. And then he takes it a step further, and step further after that, to deliver a robust and mature work for all to enjoy. This is Dalrymple’s moment, his skills coming together to say it all in one big book worthy of, you name it, Dr. Seuss, Ray Bradbury, the Beatles, the Ramones, really, name a creative genius you love and this book ranks right up there.
If you are looking for something in comics that is densely packed with wisdom, entertainment, and sheer power, it’s got to be The Wrenchies. There are free-wheeling scenes of raw action, absurdly funny reflections, and poignantly quiet moments. Turn each page to find another treat.
Dalrymple gets to dream big here and give us his rendition of so many things that accumulate in an artist’s life. It is time to take stock. One way that he does this is through Olweyez, a sort of instant den mother to the kids from the first time they meet. “Oh! hello! Wow! The Wrenchies!” she says in welcome. She goes on to explain how she’s perfected her personal system to her eager pupils. “A thousand nuances, subtle adjustments all go into it. I am naturally gifted of course. Or at least I believe that I am, which is probably what really matters anyway.” The artist speaks through his character, attempts to explain himself and, in doing so, the very act of making art, creating the very book you’re reading.
Ah, the very book. A certain comic book, entitled, “The Wrenchies,” looms large over these proceedings. It’s both a work that can elicit tears of nostalgia and dismissive comments. What seems to be most important is that this comic book appears to contain a secret code that could answer everyone’s questions, maybe provide the way back home.
Ready to fight the good fight? Ready to live? Ready to question everything? That’s the spirit! This book evokes every feeling you’ve had to rebel: a new generation’s “Quadrophenia” with generous helpings of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Here you have 304 pages of pure fun and, quite easily, the best graphic novel of the year.
The Wrenchies makes its debut at the Small Press Expo on September 13-14, 2014.