September 2005

James Campbell Martin

fiction

Tricked by Alex Robinson

Alex Robinson's comics are soap operas with the self-censorship and melodrama taken out. What's left are the addictive characters, characters who seem so real you'll ponder them for days after you finish the book.

The story of Tricked, Robinson's second graphic novel after the much-loved Box Office Poison, seems spun out of Robinson's own love for pop music. One of the key characters is a grandiose but sympathetic rock star named Ray Beam, and another is a fanatical and unstable Beam fan -- two extremes of Robinson's own psyche, perhaps. Other main characters are a lost daughter, a lost waitress, a small-time con man, and Ray Beam's personal assistant. With some delicious ironies along the way, Robinson's brilliant plot draws together all six characters for the climax, where a fallen man or two are redeemed.

Robinson creates suspense by numbering his chapters backward, from fifty to one. He makes skillful use of that bogey of ninth-grade English, foreshadowing, with full-page drawings of small objects that later play important roles in the story. And he writes great dialogue-a Russian character calls his assistant "useless as tits on a bullshit."

The book has some flaws. Perhaps showing Robinson's love of super-hero comics, a character seems during the climax to move faster than a speeding bullet. And in a moment that feels like a misstep, the by-now-psychotic Ray Beam fan hears a voice telling him, "It's nearly the end of the book. You'd better hurry." This breaking of the fourth wall is never followed up on, but such a significant move needs to ripple through the rest of the text.

Tricked has less of a lived-in feeling than Box Office Poison. And nothing in Tricked is as moving as the murder of the runaway prostitute in that book. But Tricked is more accomplished in terms of its jigsaw plot, its ironies, and its surprise hero. It's a big book from a big talent.

Tricked by Alex Robinson
Top Shelf
ISBN: 1891830732
320 Pages