Three Fingers
by Rich Koslowski
(Top Shelf, 2002)

In a world where toons are real and the minority, Three Fingers is as a semi-satirical history of the cartoon industry, particularly human Dizzy Walters and toon Rickey Rat. With other characters such as Portly Pig, Dapper Duck and Buggy Bunny, it's no stretch of the imagination which classic cartoon characters are being referenced. I was going to use the word lampooned, but this book maintains a serious -- even dark -- tone that keeps this book from being a work of satire.

The story is told in the same vein as an A&E Biography or VH1's Behind The Music, i.e., narrated images mixed with interviews of people/toons who knew the subject. The first 30-odd pages of the 134-page book are rather dry. I stuck doggedly to my "read at least 50 pages before abandoning" rule. Once Rickey Rat and Dizzy Walters start getting famous, the meat of the story -- a shocking twist -- starts to emerge. It's that "shocking twist" that makes the story interesting. As for the ending, I don't know if that's an honest twist or if it's a tongue-in-cheek resolution to the whole story.

Even though the basic story is catching, it's the commentary by some of the characters that really work. There are some especially funny off-color comments from Carhorn Armwhistle, a crotchety old cigar-smoking version of rooster Foghorn Leghorn. (The name variations are possibly the most amusing thing about this book.)

The artwork of Three Fingers is well done. Koslowski uses a traditional drawing style for the "interviews" while the "photographs" are expertly rendered. Rather than cram the story into a smaller book, the layout of each page has ample room to tell the tale.

While this is a nice read, Three Fingers is unfortunately the type of book that you will read once or twice. The whole story is built on this shocking premise that will lose its effect after the initial read. Koslowski obviously knows his cartoon history, but there's only so much offered in this story beyond the plot device. Give this graphic novel a try, but don't expect to pull it off your bookshelf very often.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 29 March 2003

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