Nothing about Pop Gun War: Gift makes sense. It is a comic book that is filled with a giant floating goldfish wearing Buddy Holly glasses, a little person wearing a top hat that can morph into a giant several stories tall, a weird Rasputin-like character who wears a ball and chain around his legs, a bum who gets beat up for no apparent reason by teenagers, and a young boy with a pair of wings that grant him the ability to fly.
The main character is Sinclair, who finds a pair of wings in the trash and manages to fashion them to his back in a makeshift way. At first the wings appear to be for decoration, but after an incident with a local bully he has the wings ripped from his back, revealing that a pair of smaller wings have been growing in their place. These wings when at their full size grant Sinclair the ability to fly.
Thematically, the only thing that stays consistent in this book is that it is about Sinclair and his estranged relationship with his sister. His sister, who is a rock star, seems to be more concerned with playing gigs and keeping her music authentic than spending time with him. However, the sister situation seems to be a hollow B-plot for the book and the conclusion to this isn’t at all satisfying
For most of the comic we follow Sinclair as he interacts with the people that make up a city environment that resembles inner city neighborhoods in Chicago or New York. Whether it is confronting bullies, a person who feels compelled to literally label everything, or standing up for a helpless bum who is tormented by the Rich Kid and his mob.
With a lack of consistency and no real direction in what this comic is about it can be at times maddening to read. It appears writer and artist Farel Dalrymple has written this book in some sort of hypnagogic state. The weirdness of this book reminds me of the early newspaper strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland” by Winsor McCay. The two seem to share a similar fascination with the possibilities of a dream like world and the surreal canvas it can create.
Writing wise the book was a pain to read. As previously stated the plot was inconsistent and felt more like a day-to-day look at life for Sinclair, who I presume is around 12-years-old, in a world where the weird and fantastic are possible. I felt in this way the author was trying to mimic some of the writing of Daniel Clowes, who is the author and artist of Ghost World. However, Clowes’ work tends to have a better sense of where it is going with the material. In Ghost World despite the aimless nature of the characters there was a path in which the characters follow from being a misunderstood high school students into adulthood.
In Pop Gun War: The Gift I just didn’t feel that Dalrymple had accomplished this. The book overall was probably supposed to be about childhood in the inner city. However, this blend of weird fantasy and what is is like to be a kid in the city didn’t work well. Dialogue at times was clunky and seemed inorganic. I felt that there was a loss in translation from script to the comics page.
However, that isn’t to say there weren’t positives with this book. Artwise I was a fan. Despite the surreal dream world being a distraction from the script it was a positive for the art. Little Sinclair flying around with his wings and interacting with these odd elements was interesting to look at and made for magic on the comics page. The plot felt secondary and was more just an excuse to draw these types of images.
Dalrymple is a talented artist and his abilities with pen and ink are impressive. There were moments throughout the book where the usually black and white book was illustrated in color. These colored pages were some of my favorites in the book. Typically they came at the beginning of each chapter and looked as if they were done in a nice soft water color which was visually appealing.
Plot and dialogue wise this was not a strong book. It gets too surreal at times and makes little sense. The true theme of Pop Gun War: Gift isn’t always obvious as well. However, that isn’t to say that the book isn’t without its positives. The art was strong and interesting to look at. What was negative, as far as the writing goes, was a positive with the art which was filled with weird and interesting visuals.
- Art is interesting and fun to look at
- Colored pages are beautiful
- Dialogue is clunky
- Plot is thin and mostly an excuse to draw weird stuff
- Resolution with sister seems unimportant