The Castaways
by Rob Vollmar, Pablo G. Callejo
(Absence of Ink, 2003)

Tucker Freeman is 13 years young and living the hobo's life on the road. Not because he wants to, mind you, but it's the age of the Great Depression and, in the wake of his father walking out on the family, he feels it's his responsibility to go out and find work, so as to be a help to the family instead of a burden. Along the way, he meets an interesting individual who becomes a trustworthy friend: an old hobo named Elijah Hopkins. During his time with Elijah, Tucker learns about being a hobo (as opposed to a "tramp" or "bum"), as well as being a decent human being.

Written by Rob Vollmar, The Castaways is a poignant, thoughtful, engrossing tale, largely influenced by conversations with the author's grandmother as well as a documentary on the Depression. You see, there is a great deal of emotional investment in Castaways, and it shows. Vollmar doesn't write two-dimensional characters here. Somehow, he manages to breathe a semblance of life into Tucker and Elijah, making the reader care about what happens to them. This book is a fine compliment to Rob's skills as a writer.

Artist Pablo G. Callejo uses a highly detailed style of rendering that is easily as important as the writing for bringing the characters to life in this tale. Reminiscent of Rick Geary's work, Callejo excels in the black-and-white medium, showing a wonderful grasp of light, shadow and textures. Though his characters' expressions are sometimes over-simplified, overall, he shows much promise in this area, as well. I hope to see more of Pablo's work in the future.

The Castaways is highly recommended for all ages, and is a great candidate for a classroom comics selection, being both entertaining and historically relevant.

- Rambles
written by Mark Allen
published 8 May 2004