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Book Review < Back

Box Office Poison

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Alex Robinson
Publisher: Top Shelf


BOX OFFICE POISON was sitting on the seat beside me at Mars 2112 when Ehren spied it. He must've been taken with the cover design or the heft of the book (602 pgs) because he asked with obvious interest, "Whatchareadin?" as he opened it, saw that it was a graphic novel, said "oh" derisively and replaced it on the seat.


Now, I've known Ehren for fourteen years and I know that this is not a fight I can win. Ehren will not read graphic novels because Ehren Does Not Like Comic Books. It sounds like I'm calling him a snob, but I know what he means. The sad thing is that BOX OFFICE POISON is exactly the kind of book to successfully challenge that way of thinking and Ehren had it in his hand, but he put it down.

Had he been willing to give BOX OFFICE POISON a chance, Ehren and I could've analyzed and discussed it the way we have a dozen other books over the years. I would've steered the conversation to the character of "Dorothy" because I absolutely HATED her and yet Alex Robinson is too good of a writer to construct her as the simple villain that I so desperately wanted her to be. Ehren would've liked terminally untidy Dorothy. He would've suggested that I don't because she reminds me of my younger self. I'd've told him to shut up.

I wonder what he would've thought of the single panel overlaps that Robinson used to move between the bookstore clerk's present and his college sex flashbacks. I thought it was artful; Ehren might've called it "clever" in that way he has of saying "clever" so that it means "gimmicky." What about the foreshadowing in the interstitials? Would he have thought the ending was rushed? Who would he have considered the protagonist - Sherman, the bookstore clerk, or Ed, the comic book artist? Does this book even have a single protagonist? Is it possible that the protagonist shifts?

BOX OFFICE POISON is a novel complex enough to provoke Book Talk. I even marked panels with post-it notes as I was reading so that I'd remember to show them to my friends. Not Ehren, though. Ehren's decided to miss out on this one. Good thing you don't have to.

-- Kelly Sue DeConnick

Kelly Sue DeConnick relocated from Brooklyn, New York to Kansas City, MO, where she lives with her husband and artbomb.net colleague, Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue writes the English adaptations of several manga titles published by Tokyopop and Viz. She can be found on the web at kellysue.com.


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