Please Release
by Nate Powell (Top Shelf, 2006)

Please Release is a brief but interesting autobiographical graphic novel about a self-admitted stereotypical 20-something artist on a quest of self-realization. (Yes, there's a lot of "self" involved in this book.) The short graphic novel has four chapters that are really self-contained stories/glimpses of Powell's life.

"The Phantom Form" is the most straightforward story of the book, offering a view of Powell's days (especially his last) at the same job in different places. "The Old Haunts," on the other hand, is the least straightforward story of the book. The story starts off with Powell drinking, but I wouldn't be surprised if something more mind-altering was going on between panels. It's a random disconnected series of events in a night filled with boredom, paranoia and observation. "Work at It" is less of a story and more of a glimpse into a particular moment in Powell's daytime job.

"Seriously" is another more straightforward story that has the strongest use of imagery and contrast. Each page has a wonderful collection of juxtaposing black-and-white panels, varying from solid voids of negative space to meticulously hatched backgrounds. This story is a bit more scattered than "The Phantom Form" but stands out with its artistic merits.

Powell's somewhat stream-of-consciousness format of storytelling doesn't quite work. However, while words don't work for Powell, other inkforms do. The strength in Powell's visual storytelling (the linework, the pacing, the transition from panel to panel and even the hand-lettering) almost makes up for the lack of comprehensive storytelling. While the style of the lettering is fine, it's the content of those letters. The prose portion of the stories are unfortunately the weakest link. Please Release would more than likely be better told in an entirely visual format.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

7 July 2007

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