Refresh, Refresh has come up on my radar several times. I was not interested as it looked like either a bloody fantasy with no point or another war book. A graphic novel would be an interesting take on either theme, but was I in the mood for it? In a recent grabbing of graphic novel covers catching my eye, I said, “Worse case I do not like and do not finish.”
I had a feeling (though not sure why) it was about Vietnam. And it is about war (Iraq), but not the actual war itself. Three boys, Josh, Cody, and Gordon just want their fathers back home. They are trying to come to terms with the fact their fathers are not there, their lives have been turned around, they partly wish they were over there too, but also just wanting to be kids. It is the eve of their Senior year and the only things they really know are that they want to have sex, drink and get out of their town.
However, I also felt, “Where is the story?” But that is the story. It is just the day-to-day stupidity we do to try and make sense of things. But there is no “sense” to it. People do stupid things; they try and find something “solid” to hold onto. Yes, they could have fleshed things out more, but I felt like an alien watching humans be human, and therefore, you would not get the inner monologues that we see in a novel. There is vivid violence that was horrific to say the least (they show hunting and the boys commit assault) but it represented to me the whole moronic nature of what is going on in the world and back home. There is also language, sex (seeing the afterwards though nothing is shown, but also the typical dumb male talking about “she’s easy” or “they’d hit that.”) There is the stupidity of bullies and eventually comradery towards one when his father is killed in action.
Spoiler: One character was accepted to college, the way out. But due to the heinous act he commits, he does not think that is possible anymore. His light at the end of the tunnel has gone out. It is now a train and not an opening anymore. He has turned out like the people he does not like (his grandfather, his friends, the military recruiter, probably even his dad), therefore, what is left? The only answer, he has convinced himself, is just keep the cycle going. He just gives up in the end. (This is shown by him sitting alone on the sidewalk, the weather surrounding him and the surreal nature of about 13 panels gone completely abstract/Twilight Zoned). He thinks he is no better than those that died, who fight wars, the hopelessness of the town.
Danica Novgorodoff and others made a story that is about the everyday. The mundane. The unknowns. The violence that comes from fear, hate, boredom, trying to impress. There is nothing to like (except for some raw lines that show you everything you need to know about the person saying them) but it is something to experience. Even the illustrations are as dull and unimaginative as the characters and the town. Here is where most of the violence is seen (the beatings, blood human and deer, black eyes, the afterwards of one character and his “the morning after” happenings) yet, it is almost black and white. There are only browns/grey/dullness coloring showing what a Midwestern, becoming a ghost town, looks like. What poor really looks like.
Did I like this book? No, I hated everything about it. But it was one flippin’ (only I did not say flippin’) ride.