Rich art in need of a richer story.



For this coming-of-age neonoir about a troubled boy and his troubled dad, illustrator and author Ruth reteams with his Indeh (2016) collaborator, actor/writer/director Hawke.

Teenage troublemaker Coop has been expelled from school, hates his mom’s dorky boyfriend, and wishes he could just live with his dad, Jack, a brave and charming (if frequently late) corrections officer with a past as a boxer. But when Jack’s fraught relationship with Coop’s mom forces an impromptu bring-your-son-to-work day at the local prison, a series of events unfold that upend Coop’s understanding of his father and force him to grow up quickly. The story is swift and breezy, relying on archetypes (tough but maternal boss, lunatic killer inmates, exasperated woman who still cares about her screw-up ex-husband) and pattering dialogue (“Buck will never be too dumb to forget how smart you think you are, Jack”) to fill in characters painted mostly in broad strokes. Coop is unhappy and self-sabotaging but without clear motivation other than the strained relationship with his father. We get a peek into Coop’s head through dreams and nature-inspired reveries, and Ruth’s exceptional art imbues those moments with a power beyond words. But with the intensity of Coop’s experience by the end, a bit more exploration of his interior landscape would’ve helped the brutally life-changing events of the story resonate beyond the raw power of blood spatter. The near photorealism and energy of Ruth’s linework are absolutely gorgeous, and the striking similarity between Jack’s physical appearance and that of co-writer Hawke is a fun nod to the actor and co-author. But the story’s reliance on Hollywood tropes keeps the tale from full poignancy.

Rich art in need of a richer story.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1457-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.



Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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Using modern language, McDonald spins the well-known tale of the two young, unrequited lovers. Set against Nagar’s at-times...


From the Campfire Classics series

A bland, uninspired graphic adaptation of the Bard’s renowned love story.

Using modern language, McDonald spins the well-known tale of the two young, unrequited lovers. Set against Nagar’s at-times oddly psychedelic-tinged backgrounds of cool blues and purples, the mood is strange, and the overall ambiance of the story markedly absent. Appealing to what could only be a high-interest/low–reading level audience, McDonald falls short of the mark. He explains a scene in an open-air tavern with a footnote—“a place where people gather to drink”—but he declines to offer definitions for more difficult words, such as “dirges.” While the adaptation does follow the foundation of the play, the contemporary language offers nothing; cringeworthy lines include Benvolio saying to Romeo at the party where he first meets Juliet, “Let’s go. It’s best to leave now, while the party’s in full swing.” Nagar’s faces swirl between dishwater and grotesque, adding another layer of lost passion in a story that should boil with romantic intensity. Each page number is enclosed in a little red heart; while the object of this little nuance is obvious, it’s also unpleasantly saccharine. Notes after the story include such edifying tidbits about Taylor Swift and “ ‘Wow’ dialogs from the play” (which culls out the famous quotes).

Pub Date: May 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-93-80028-58-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Campfire

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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