In his first full-length graphic memoir, Dandro (Mr. Gnu comic strip) presents the story of his tumultuous family life in Massachusetts, from childhood through high school. This portrait of the artist as a young man in some very bad circumstances depicts how the author’s biological father’s increasing violence and drug habit intertwine in a boy’s life of play, school, and pop culture. The art style is likewise a blend, with straightforward line drawings mixing with hyperrealistic scenes that give way to flights of fancy. The combination of whimsy and trauma create an arresting and compelling read, and work as a whole shares a spiritual kinship to Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, the real world presented through a lens of imagination. Using inventive designs and page layouts, Dandro shows how effective the graphic format can be in relating personal narratives.
VERDICT A visually engaging and human story of early trauma and how art and the imagination persist through the toughest of times. For those interested in real-world stories of accounts of people coping with difficult family situations.