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  • Words: Aaron Renier
  • Art: Aaron Renier
  • Inks: Aaron Renier
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Spiral-Bound (Top Secret Summer)
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
  • Price: $14.95
  • Release Date: Aug 10, 2005

A memorable debut is important for any rising creator and Aaron Renier=s Spiral-Bound of the best full-length debuts in recent years.

In this fun-filled world of anthropomorphic characters, Turnip is a lonely elephant. Lost in love with a mouse who doesn=t even know he exists, Viola, and awkward socially, Turnip tries his hand at art...and making friends. His friend Stucky Hound helps him towards both ends. Meanwhile, Viola=s friends Ana and Emily are hard at work for an underground newspaper that digs up all the town=s dirt. Little do they know how dangerous their jobs can be, for themselves and others. Add into all of that fun and mystery a giant underwater monster and you have one of those books you know is great just from the ideas.

Aaron Renier participated in Top Shelf=s Free Comic Book Day book a couple years ago, and I enjoyed that short story so much that Spiral-Bound has been towards the top of my most anticipated comics list ever since. Wow...he did not disappoint me in the least. Renier packs an incredible amount of story into his 178 page debut. Don=t be turned off by the fact that it=s a Afunny animal@ story either. While that does give the book a nice sense of wonder, it doesn=t take away from the emotions and relationships the characters feel. Renier=s story is first and foremost a fun mysteryBan adventure that will bring you back to the incredible summer days of your childhood. He handles it adeptly, with some true surprises and a great sense of suspense building up.

In addition to the adventure, we have a story centering on a couple of characters and what they learn about life. Turnip seems to be the story=s main character. He learns that the world can both help and hurt him, but most of all not to be so self-conscious. It=s heart-wrenching to see such a nice character go through pain for such stupid reasons. Renier hits all the right notes in that regard. The story=s co-star, if you will, is Ana, who is the polar opposite of Turnip. Headstrong and outgoing, she learns the price that you can pay for reckless adventure. The characters and relationships built in this book are wonderful to behold.

Enough about Renier=s writing though, as amazing as it is. These reviews have a word limit, and I need to get to his absolutely incredible art. I can=t quite put my finger on who it reminds me of--he has a very unique style. While his drawings have a stylized, cartoon-like feel, he also packs a lot of detail into his drawings, particularly on the stunning two-page spread towards the end of the book. Renier=s character designs are spot-on as well. Turnip=s insecurity, Stucky=s friendliness, Ana=s boldness...they all shine through immediately. The sense of wonder found in Renier=s art is truly a thing to behold.

The design on this book is the final touch to its greatness. With the look of an actual spiral-bound notebook, it should grab some eyes on the racks (on the assumption that it your store ordered it). Also, this book is a great bargain...it=s rare to get this much story in an original graphic novel, let alone for only 15 dollars.

Aaron Renier, with his combined sense of wonder and reality, is a wonderful rarity in the comics field. His first graphic novel does not simply display potential, it already displays greatness. Spiral-Bound is one of the best books of the year.

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