Waiting For The Trade – Family Bones Volume 1

Writer: Shawn Granger
Artists: Orlando Baez, Benito Oleo Bellido, Mannie Abelada, Pablo Augustin Lordi
Letterer: Richard Nelson

Collects: Family Bones #1-5

The author was kind enough to send us a copy of this collection along with some others which may come around later in my reviews blitz. This manga-sized volume collects a series of black & white issues dealing with our protagonist Sean, who is sent to stay first with his grandparents and then with his great Aunt and Uncle for a summer whilst his Mum and Dad work through some marital issues. I don’t know for certain but at first glance Sean would appear to be the author projecting himself into the story as Shawn himself is a relative of Ray & Faye Copeland, the serial killing Aunt & Uncle who provide the “true story” element to the book.

Sean’s life with his Aunt & Uncle is unlike anything he’s used to and the harshness of his treatment at their hands is contrasted against his teenage sense of entitlement, at times he’s a complete brat and I must admit that part of me was a little torn at times as I felt he deserved some of the treatment to “take him down a peg or two”, however this dilemma is quickly brushed aside as Ray’s physical and psychological abuse of both Sean and Faye goes to the level that you can feel nothing but disdain for him. There’s one scene off-panel with Ray & Faye which makes for incredibly uncomfortable reading.

The one light in Sean’s life during this time is Wendy, a girl about his age who moved into the area a few years before. They begin a flirtatious relationship which by the end of this volume has just begun to turn physical. Wendy is portrayed as a capable but complex character and her flirtations with Sean take her from innocence to a certain worldliness. She certainly doesn’t fall for him in the soft-focus Hollywood fashion, it’s more of an evolution of an obvious interest and attraction.

There’s a double-edged sword for me in the way that the True Story element is handled. Whilst it brings the book a hook and I would assume some sort of notoriety (as a Brit I’d never heard of the case, I don’t know if it made the news over here but if it did then I never caught it) it also bleeds too heavily into the narrative for my taste. Because you know that Ray and Faye are serial killers things which would come as a surprise lose their impact. When characters disappear, rather than buying into what you’re told in dialogue you immediately know that the Copelands had a hand in it. I assume their involvement will eventually be revealed but I’ve already got the twist. This sensation is heightened by the pinup art which is strewn throughout the book and almost all depicts the Copelands killing.

Now it could be that Granger does something else and surprises with volume 2, I’ll let you know. It’s a shame as when view as a coming of age tale there’s a lot to like about the plot as Sean continues to try to rebel against Ray.

Artistically the book is varied. Whilst I really like the sexiness Bellido gives Wendy (without being too cheesecake about it) my pick would be Abeleda. At times the B&W art has a real Sean Murphy vibe to it and reminds me a little of Off-Road. The variety of styles, from the aforementioned Murphyishness to the more manga look Bellido uses make it hard to stick with the single narrative. It’s not like a Queen & Country where there’s an arc with each artist.

Ultimately though when I finished the last page of volume 1 my first thought was to read volume 2, which shows that there’s something compelling here if only to see if I was right in my concerns.

Rating:
Reviewer: Dave Williams

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