‘Kennel Block Blues #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Prison, for a large percentage of the population (but not large enough by far) will always remain a boogeyman, a place where people who do bad things go, but not little bad things like cheating on your spouse or sabotaging someone else’s promotion for your own benefit, but big bad things like doing drugs (if you’re not white) or killing someone.  What happens when that bogeyman comes to life for no reason at all?  Other than Netfilx’s How to Make a Murderer, this is also the subject of Ryan Ferrier and Daniel Bayliss’ Kennel Block Blues, (as far as we’re aware, asour protagonist’s protestations of innocence have yet to be substantiated by anyone else).  Having been tossed onto death row for no reason, Oliver tries to handle his new reality in the only way he knows how: escaping into a fantastic alternate reality in his mind where life is an old-timey cartoon.

There’s something really engaging about the setup for this book.  The confines of the penitentiary coupled with Oliver’s constant escapism creates a great juxtaposition that creates a very interesting and tense setting that is ripe for great storytelling.  Between that and some great, larger-than-stereotype characters, Ferrier has given us an exciting story that engages quickly with humor and nuance.  Oliver’s escape is never silent, so we get to watch the world react to him losing his grip on reality, and it’s pretty awesome.  There’s a lot of promise here with a deep, well-developed world that has surprises galore.  There’s much more here than just your standard prison drama, and the tone flips between deadly serious and jovially comical in no time flat, leaving an overwhelming absurdist cant to the entire book that will certainly affect the reader.

This is my first experience with Daniel Bayliss’ work, and it’s a phenomenal one.  This whole world hinges on the real world versus the one in Oliver’s head, and Bayliss has a masterful touch at separating the two.  The real world is very dark, gritty, and everything you’d expect from a story set in the pen, whereas the escape world feels like a mix of Steamboat Willy with SuperJail’s color palette.  He doesn’t just swap the style, but the whole tone of the book shifts on a dime and never lets you comfortably setting into one feeling.  This shows great skill with his focus, and every time a terrible thing happens, the resulting “happy” image tends to be hilarious.  I love how fun this book is in its artistry; it really drives home the slippery nature of our protagonist's delicate mental state.

There’s an incredible amount of potential for this series, and I’m really hooked.  It’s one of those books that always feels just a few pages too short for the best reasons, and I’m sure if you pick it up, you’ll find something to fall in love with.  The bouncing between cartoonish naiveté and desolate prison drama is a well-balanced storytelling machine that will delight, horrify, tickle, depress, and most of all entertain anyone who reads it.

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Last modified on Monday, 31 December 2018 20:26

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