I returned to an old faithful for a review this week, the publishing company First Second. Today’s review is for one of their older releases, and like others from the company’s Oughts period, it is an English translation of a European graphic novel. Garage Band is a 2005 Italian release, and the First Second English translation came about in 2007. The artist and writer is an individual known as Gipi. First Second regular Danica Novgorodoff (of Slow Storm) illustrated the book’s jacket.
Garage Band’s plot is very thin. It covers a group of four Italian lay-abouts trying to put a band together. Giuliano, the everyman, is given access to his father’s storage garage, and his buddy, Stefano uses his sardonic charisma to recruit a faux-Nazi drummer and a wallflower named Alberto. Stefano’s dad pulls some strings to get the boys heard by a producer, but on the eve of their audition, an amp blows and the band has to lower themselves to underhanded tactics in order to replenish their supply.
Gipi uses really loose & frantic ink lines and a watercolor wash. Everything is drawn so haphazardly that I had a hard time distinguishing the characters from one another. Guiliano and Stefano are easy to spot, due to Guiliano’s red hair and Stefano’s wild eyes. But the pseudo-Nazi and the boring guy look nearly identical and all of the adults seem to run together. The art style, while perfectly suitable in a number of cases (see Stitches), doesn’t work as well when the characters and plot are as thin as they are in this book. Since both the writing and the artwork appeared to be under-thought or abridged for time/space, I ended up filling unfulfilled.
Dumb youth is the through-line of the novel. Most of the band putting up with a drummer who hangs up Hitler posters on his bedroom wall is one of the first clues that the teens don’t think about the impact of their actions too deeply. Unity is also how the book pieces together a happy ending, but since I wasn’t invested in the characters, I didn’t find myself caring at the climax.
I read most of this book in a quick sitting at a bar, waiting on nachos. The nachos were better. The book picks up a bit once a dilemma is introduced, but the reading experience is over before you know it due to the short length. I wouldn’t recommend it. Also, Guiliano’s guitar on the cover looks like a cock.