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‘Lone Racer’ Leads the Indie Pack

Cover of Nicolas Mahler's 'Lone Racer' graphic novelOk, I need to preface this review by saying I don’t read a lot of indie stuff. I tend to stick with Marvel, DC and a few things here and there from Vertigo, Image and Dark Horse. I probably gravitate towards the Big Two simply because these are the characters I read growing up, so there is a lifelong attachment to them. Channeling Simon Cowell for a minute, if I’m going to be honest, I find many indie offerings to be filled with bad art, pretentious writing and stories about someone’s less than stellar childhood. So I was hesitant when Chris and John asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing Nicolas Mahler’s Lone Racer, published by Top Shelf.

“Uh.. yeah… why me? This isn’t stuff I normally read.”

“Exactly. We thought it would be different to have someone review it who typically steered away from this type of stuff.”

That sounded reasonable, so I took it home to read. Tossing the cliche of “not judging a book by it’s cover” out the window, I took a look at the cover and thought they had handed me a book that would just reaffirm why I stay away from most indie work. I was wrong. Don’t let the simplistic art and minimal writing fool you. There is remarkable depth to the story and the characters, and Mahler deftly accomplishes this without resorting to long-winded internal dialogue or highly detailed pictures.

First, the art. It’s pretty basic black and white drawings and the only other color you see is orange. Yet, somehow it works. Even poignant scenes between the main character and his wife, who is in the hospital with an unnamed illness, carry a lot of emotion. The writing, like the art, is also straighforward. I’m not saying Mahler is Hemingway, but the style reminds me of Hemingway. You won’t find flowery descriptions about how a character feels – if he feels sad, he says “I feel sad.”

Although the book is ninety-two pages long, it’s a quick read. However, it would be a disservice to the story if you breezed through it without taking the time to appreciate what the author has created. Does this one book change my view regarding indie books in general? Not really. However, as someone who tends to stay out of the indie world, it does show that it can be worthwhile to occasionaly explore that arena.

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