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Alone and unheard,
This review is from: Ice Haven (Hardcover)Ice Haven is a dark story about the residents of a small town. Their lives are framed by the kidnap of shy child David Goldberg. There's also a narrator, Random Wilder, a middle-aged poet who resents the success of his neighbour's poems. Wilder is fascinating. His actions, though terrible, are motivated not by greed or sadism but despair. They're those of a desperate high schooler. Struggling writers, though not capable of doing what he does, might sympathise with him. He's pretentious and desensitised, but also alone. He'd have felt at home in Todd Solondz's film Happiness (which Clowes designed the poster for). His tragedy is that he's never matured as a writer or person, though the last scene is weirdly hopeful: someone has heard him.
Like a lot of Clowes' stories Ice Haven is focused on dialogue rather than action. Important events aren't shown so much as glimpsed through conversation and inner monologue.
Characters are given their own comic strips with title panels, a neat device which emphasises their isolation. The way they behave in their strips differs from how they do in each others'. Two standalone strips follow Rocky the Caveman, who discovers Ice Haven, and Blue Bunny, a psychotic soft toy. Both are bizarre diversions and don't impact the story they interrupt, but Rocky underlines its postmodern themes. Blue Bunny I think of as comic relief, like the night porter in Macbeth. I can't imagine why else he's here.
Some characters seem parodic. For instance, Mr. Ames resembles the angry and distant sleuth so often seen in pulp fiction. Meanwhile Julie Patheticstein, who works at a stationary store, has a name which says it all.
Ice Haven might baffle and disturb those not familiar with Clowes. It's not an uplifting or cathartic comic book. But it is brilliant.