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The quiet brilliance of "Tim Ginger"

Tim Ginger by Artist/Writer Julian Hanshaw

Top Shelf Productions have recently published Tim Ginger by artist-writer Julian Hanshaw, and it's one of the best graphic novels of the year.

What is Tim Ginger about? Well, it's about a lot of things. It's about a test pilot living out his retirement in the quiet plains of New Mexico. It's about the choice to not have children. It's about UFOs and conspiracies. Book tours. Cricket.

The book immerses readers into quiet moments of isolation with an iconic and minimalist cartooning style. The page below renders the rhythms of retirement living in a trailer in the deserts of New Mexico with beautifully observed details: the sound of Lana Del Rey playing on a radio, the flow of water and twist of a faucet knob, the sounds of a mouse trapped in a roach motel.

A different technique is employed in the page below to similarly immersive effect. In a small diner, the kind of dive the titular character visits while on a low-budget book tour, individual panels frame details of the diner amidst snippets of conversation, continuing the quiet rhythms of Tim Ginger's post-retirement life:

This page in particular conveys one of the major themes of Tim Ginger, a pervasive feeling of solitude. Details in the panels stand alone: a napkin dispenser, a toaster, a checkout register, and finally a pair of characters who have been separated by years and geography are now brought together but the perception is still tinged with a feeling of disconnection.

The understated color palette of the artwork establishes a temperature for the scenes - the heat of the desert, the quiet of a small hotel room at dusk, and the contrast between events in the present day and the past.

There's also a book-within-the-book, in a series of pages rendered in an alternate black-and-white style, which illustrate the theme of childlessness and the reasons why people make that choice.

Tim's experiences as a test pilot are rendered in a stark black-and-white style, occasionally juxtaposed with sequences of surreal images that are Felliniesque.

There is a dreamlike quality to the meandering threads of Tim Ginger; the narrative courses with unexpected bends that may seem random and disconnected in the moment - but artist/writer Julian Hanshaw weaves all of its disparate threads into a unified tapestry that concludes with a wonderfully effective and cathartic ending.

Milton Lawson

Milton is a writer living in Houston. Comics, travelogues. Go Astros. Go Texans.

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