Smoke is a strange book. It’s completely wordless which puts the burden of conveying the story all on the art. That’s the part that got me lost while reading the book as there seemed to be three storylines going on at the same time. There’s the reality of the world and then the imagination of the two boys that star in the story. We start with a bus bringing a bunch of workers to their farm job. Two of these workers are two young boys which is sad in and of itself. Along the drive we see a picture of a young girl and flowers in front of the picture. Clearly she’s died, but how and why are completely unknown to us. We do know that the younger boy is saddened by this as he looks at the picture.
Now we see the boys work a little and then surrounded in fire. Then we see them back at work and each having their own delusion of falling to another side. There we find the skeleton dog that’s on the cover waiting for them. This dog rescues them and takes them on a journey through several different landscapes.
Now the ending is pretty good. It’s just that there’s some confusion at the beginning making it unclear what exactly happened. Now granted, when a book has no dialogue it’s asking the reader to become a participant in deciding what happened. You can decide if there’s a happy, sad or disappointing ending because it’s not 100% spelled out. With that in mind, it was again pretty good. It was a bit predictable, but the art made it worthwhile.
Speaking of the art. It has a kids book quality to it. The coloring looks like colored pencils and it adds a lot of personality to the story. Some of the pages are a bit vague and really just come off as stand in landscape shots, but I can appreciate the artwork at least. Really my one and only problem with the art and story is the confusion at the beginning. If intentional it was a poor choice of direction.
Smoke is sadly a book that I could only see myself reading once. If you relate to the story than I’m sure there’s more of a desire to read/experience it again, but even then I have to wonder how many times you would honestly go through a silent story like this. It’s an experience, but ultimately it’s not captivating enough.
Smoke Creator: Gregory Benton Publisher: Hang Dai Editions/Alternative Comics Price: $14.99 Release Date: 9/15/15 Format: Hardcover; Print