Boston Globe on Off Season

“Graphic novel tells story of 2016 election and a crumbling marriage” / The Boston Globe / Nina MacLaughlin / February 15, 2019

A graphic novel about family in today’s world

The grim 2016 election season and its aftermath is both backdrop and foreground to James Sturm’s powerful new graphic novel “Off Season’’ (Drawn & Quarterly).

The story follows Mark, a carpenter who’s not getting paid, and the dissolution of his marriage to Lisa. It is about the real and daily woes of the job of trying to keep head-above-water under tides of demands of children, work, love. That she supports Hillary Clinton and he Bernie Sanders is both point of contention as well as reflection of their differences.

Sturm, who co-founded the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, as well as the Seattle alternative newsweekly The Stranger, works in a minimal palette of gray-blue, suggesting the chill of the New England late fall in which it’s set.

Sturm captures the moment when frustration boils to rage. “Maybe two people liking something for different reasons is only a fight waiting to happen,” Mark thinks.
The weight of family (individual burdens of depression, illness, money) vie with moments of connection and warmth (a child asleep in the arms, a connecting conversation on the phone, an arm brushing against an arm). The ache of a specific sort of masculine longing and restraint is powerfully articulated — fittingly the book has been compared to the work of Raymond Carver. Sturm, who is reading at Harvard Book Store at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22, has made a book that feels true to the current moment.
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