Like any young adult buttoned against the wind and keeping a journal close by the bed, ABE: WRONG FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS is unapologetically self-absorbed, prone to wallow in moments of whimsy, and at all times values expressiveness over cold, hard reportage. A great achievement of ABE is that after reading it you don't want to kick Dakin in the face. Instead, the most likely reaction is a desire to read his book again right away, if not simply for the mood and pacing than for frequently pithy asides like this all-too-true description of fading adult friendships: "Worse than that, they're becoming polite."
Dakin's greatest virtues are tone and perspective. He exhibits an adult's sensibility rather than an overgrown child's; one can feel the cold bite of an October breeze in just as many of the short stories in this collection as opportunities bask in the first sunny day of May. Because Dakin seems to be drawing on life experience, his smell-the-flowers values seem hard-won rather than justifications for ten more minutes of recess. Despite the fantasy trappings, ABE's vignettes feel drawn from life rather than fables tangentially related to it. Dakin provides his work a feeling of depth by frequently using several panels a page. This allows even the most propulsive reader the opportunity through repetition to pick up on the specific pleasures to be found in Dakin's visuals, like the rain slickened street scene in silhouette at the beginning of "Two Storms." ABE is a strong, funny work that has a very compassionate message on the essential question of how best to live one's life. Spending time in its company is just the kind of happy waste of time it values.
Tom Spurgeon is a writer living in Silver City, New Mexico. He can be found online at The Comics Reporter.