One of our favourite things here at Pipedream Comics is when we get sent a debut book from a new creator and it just blows us away with high quality originality. One such book is The Junction, from Norm Konyu, a poignant and powerful tale of grief and loss in small town America that is coming to Kickstarter this Spring.
Publisher: Self Published
Writer: Norm Konyu
Artist: Norm Konyu
Lucas Jones has been missing from his home tome of Medford for 12 years, and so when he is returned to a local police station by his aunt and uncle it should be a time for rejoicing. The problem is, Lucas hasn’t aged in the 12 years since his disappearance, instead he is still the same 11 year old boy he was in 1984. As police and psychiatrists begin to look into his story, reading his diaries and encouraging him to tell them what happened, they begin to learn he has been to a mysterious place called Kirby Junction where life is not quite as it might seem.
The Junction is a beautifully told story of loss, grief and redemption that is an utterly compelling read from first page to last. While the story starts out as a missing child mystery, it soon evolves into something much more interesting and thoughtful. Konyu uses mixed narrative techniques ranging from interviews to diaries to conversations to layer the story telling across the various time periods. It helps to build the books slightly disorientating and mysterious sections perfectly, as you question what is real and what is in the mind of Lucas. However it’s never done to the detriment of the story and the whole thing makes complete sense as you follow through the narrative.
This is definitely one of those stories where it is important not to give too much away, but suffice to say what ends up happening in Kirby Junction is the core of the story. Reading it you are reminded of everything from the classic small town America of a Frank Capra film, through to more contemporary twisted reality stories like the Truman Show. There is even a slightly Tim Burton or David Lynch esque under current to it, with a mixture of nostalgia tinged with malaise running through it. Certainly some of the later scenes have a very Burton-esque gothic streak to them.
While the concept is certainly very unique, Konyu’s characterisation is also simply perfect. All the characters have a real believability and emotive heart to them which makes you care about what happens. This means that when the story begins to get picked apart you genuinely care about what happens and why. The resolution is utterly heart breaking but is done in a really subtle and sympathetic fashion that just builds slowly and makes the reader figure out the revelation before it is revealed, meaning you are given plenty of time to process the events while they are happening.
What stops this dark subject matter from veering too far into the shadows is Norm’s incredible artwork. His highly stylised cartoonish approach looks more like something from a kids picture book than a comic. This is mostly thanks to the painted finish and mixed media pages which give the book a wonderful textured feel to it, that we cannot wait to see in print. His use of panel and page layout suggest he is much more than an illustrator playing at making comics and the mix of colours and tones for different time periods and settings helps to really compartmentalise the various bits of the story, without them feeling isolated. It definitely feels like he understands and knows how to tell a story in comic book form and the style and finish of the book is good enough that it would be an ideal fit for Drawn and Quarterly, Avery Hill or even Nobrow – we hope that larger publishers will spot this as it deservers the biggest audience possible.
The Junction really is a very special book indeed. We sat and read it one sitting as the story was so compelling that we couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Lucas. Its mix of realism and surrealism is balanced perfectly and the artwork manages to bring the disparate elements of the story together in sublime fashion. And we will definitely be revisiting it in order to truly take in the story as a whole. If we read a better book than this in 2020, then it will have to be something really special, as this looks set to be a book which we will be shouting about for a long time to come!