'The Death Ray' is another in Daniel Clowes' series of - well, what does one call them? graphic novellas? In this case, the original appeared in 2004 in Eightball 23, but this is the first book edition.
'The Death Ray' anticipates something of the mood of 'Wilson', in that it centres on a morally ambiguous individual whose difficult progress through life raises issues of personal identity and moral responsibility. At the same time it paints a portrait of an anomic America that peels away the surface glitter and exposes lives almost deprived of meaning. In the case of 'Andy', a troubled teen living with his grandfather after the deaths of his mother and father, meaning arrives at the age of seventeen in the form of an unexpected ability and a gift from his deceased father: the 'death ray' of a thousand pulp science fiction tales.
Clowes is a first-rate writer and illustrator; the large format allows the full-colour artwork space to breathe, and anybody familar with his work - particularly 'Ghost World', 'Ice Haven' and 'Wilson' - will find this well up to his high standards. It's no exaggeration to say that the narrative and moral complexities here are comparable to those in the better contemporary American fiction. Clowes is a must-read, and a must-reread author.