Ken is a loser. He’s funny and relatively attractive, but can’t close the deal with girls. In part that’s because despite living in Southern California, Ken doesn’t own a car. Also, Ken has a crap job, most of his co-called friends mock him, and his closest friend really likes the girl with whom Ken is smitten.
Ken’s the main character in Long Hot Summer, an interesting new graphic novel from Image. Writer Eric Stephenson does a solid job of portraying his main characters. All the characters feel familiar. Ken seems like one of those guys who is too nice and too much of a wallflower for his own good. Steve, his loyal friend, just can’t stop himself from betraying his friendship with Ken by getting involved with Ashley, who really just wants to have fun. In the end, something quite ironic and quite realistic happens,
Yeah, it’s kind of a soap opera, but the story is feels realistic. These really are characters to whom it’s easy to relate. People act realistically, and the wheels set into motion at the beginning of the book definitely pay off by the end. It’s the kind of book that seems to start slowly, but by the end, it sneaks up on readers.
My big complaint about the book is that it really isn’t very good at giving the reader a feeling of its setting. The back cover proclaims that the book takes place in 1988 among “a crowd of Southern California mods obsessed with scooters, ’60s soul and style,” but up until the end, the book doesn’t have a strong feeling of place and time. There’s a scene set inside a record store and another where the guys are shopping for a scooter, but there’s no larger sense of setting or style. In fact, part of what makes the conclusion satisfying is that suddenly the setting and background really do matter.
Jamie McKelvie’s art is competent. At first, I was distracted by the rather stiff way he draws his characters and settings. The book could do with more backgrounds and with more characters who seem to move on the printed page. In fact, part of the problem I mention above comes from this problem. However, McKelvie does have a way with faces – his characters are expressive, and he does a good job of conveying emotions. Most of all, McKevlie seems like an artist who just needs more work to get really good.
Long Hot Summer is a nice little graphic novel, but it had the potential to be quite a bit better. Still, it’s a nice package and well worth the low cover price.