It’s the most inventive graphic novel since Watchmen. Rob Davis’ The Can Opener’s Daughter disorients and intrigues, rolling itself into a pent-up coming of age thriller set in a dystopian landscape you’d find in a teenage schizophrenic’s fever dream. Let me clarify, I’m not saying this graphic novel is as good as Alan Moore’s superhero magnum opus. What I am saying is that there are few artists that have singlehandedly changed the game. Watchmen invoked that comic book heroes could have a deeply literary element. Rob Davis shows graphic novels can delve into a surrealistically absurd stratosphere that even sounds ridiculous for a comic book. His work has the potential to turn the genre on its head.
Here’s the premise, the daughter of a neo-fascist dictator who’s also an alcoholic weather clock, literally, tries to save one of her best friends from his planned, mandated death with the help of her friend suffering from a brain disorder and her reluctant father who’s a talking can opener, literally, travelling through a world where it rains knives and suicides are a matter of law, literally. Still with me? Good.
The second in a series, but also serving as a standalone, we follow Vera Pike, a grinning sower of discord and odd righteousness. Davis does a stellar job crafting Vera as the heroine in this snarky, disturbing work. Rather than make her an innocent, shy, uncertain little girl caught up in a big, bad world, she thinks for herself, wisecracks at every opportunity and stands up to authority. She is utterly human. Human in the sense that she can be downright selfish, doing anything it takes to accomplish her goals and save her friend while feeding her ego at the same time.
This book is beyond crazy in the premise, the artwork and even the wordplay that Davis employs in a not-so-subtle fashion, like he wrote it with a shit-eating grin. That might encourage or deter the casual reader. For me, it was stimulating and forced me to pay attention. The Can Opener’s Daughter reads like a translated section of Finnegans Wake with accompanying imagery drawn by a Ralph Steadman. If you enjoy wordsmithing and straight-up weirdness, buy this book immediately. It’s unlike anything you have ever read or seen.
Images via downthetubes.net