I was looking at some online reader copies the other day. I found one by Justin Madson. And I then saw they had a first book, Tin Man. Or maybe it started another way. I am not sure, because I do not remember even seeing the book that made me want to request this book from my library. But regardless of how it happened to be found, I found myself with a copy of the Tin Man graphic novel. When reading about it, I was feeling that it was going to be a lot darker than it was. And despite a death, serious bullying, teen slackers, troubled parent/children relationships, and bizarre tornadoes, things are actually hopeful.
While we know the story of coming of age, family, friendship, and the loss and finding of loved ones and self, this is fresh, clever, strong, and emotional. The surface of the story is Solar is dealing with her senior year of school, the death of her grandmother, a rocky relationship with her mother, a boyfriend who is borderline to full out abusive, pulling away from her friendship with her beloved younger brother, Fenn, and a Tin Man who comes into their life. Fenn is dealing with the loss of his sister, though she is right in front of him; his own rocky relationship with his parents, lack of friends and the Tin Man he finds in the junkyard. The Tin Man is also dealing with his own issues that all came from a pesky heart given to him by The Wizard (who we never see). The idea of The Wizard of Oz plays out in the obvious (Mayor Crow is building a yellow brick road; a Tin Woodsman, tornados) and the more subtle (one of Solar’s friends wears a lion sweatshirt, there is a French lion movie, Fenn has a scarecrow look to him). But the ideas of home and love are front and center. The sounder the surface story is found from what the reader puts into it because of their own biases.
Now the artwork is not AMAZING but compliments and enhances the story. In some ways it is a character in itself. The pages are darker, organic earth tones. And things are ugly. Yet, still there could be beauty if you look right. Some of it is probably just the style of Madson, but also the look and tone fits the story and I could not see any other style for it. Both the story and the art must be gritty. I am not sure how I felt about it, as I liked and disliked it simultaneously. However, I can say it gave me feelings. The entire package did.