Graphic Novel Of The Month
The Hot Breath of War (Sparkplug): Trevor Alixopulos’ collection of six short stories is uneven like many anthology style collections, whether they include multiple contributors or works of just a single creator. The Hot Breath of War is also plagued by a couple of obvious typos that jut out and break what would otherwise be an enjoyable experience. It still sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, but some of the shorts do resonate stronger than others. The couple of pieces I liked, well, I actually loved. My favorite story, “And His Breath is Hot,” centers on a war refugee returning home and his encounter with a young girl off to bury her deceased mother. This short is a jumble of beautiful contradictions. We’re unsure if the protagonist won his war, and judging by his reaction, he seems to question just what “winning” such a conflict means exactly. The girl he encounters is at a precarious age which causes her to defy any sort of pre-conceived notion about her role or relationship with the soldier. “No. I am too young, or too old to be anything to you,” she says. She’s too old to be a daughter that he would tenderly care for, and too young to be a lover that he would take. “A Journey in Time” is also quite interesting. The panel layouts are soft and unique, and the expressive figures within them make the book worth checking out for these 15 pages alone. This short revolves around swirling urban identities that overlap with poetic lines like “I walk the same streets here, waiting for them to weave into my memory.” This book is a departure from Alixopulos’ earlier work Mine Tonight, which was a superb crime caper and offered a more cohesive narrative. The Hot Breath of War plays looser; it is ethereal and haunting. Like the best images and lines, parts of it linger with you long after you’re done reading. As with all anthologies or collections of shorter works, each piece isn't always successful, but this was an interesting experiment that pays off with bits like the stinging observation about modern US desert campaigns, and connects strongly about half the time. Like so many Sparkplug creators, Trevor Alixopulos is one to watch, and I’ve committed to picking up any of his future works. Grade A-.