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Night Fisher Paperback – November 9, 2005

3.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Johnson's first graphic novel has a force and elliptical grace that suggests he's been drawing comics and writing fiction for much longer than he really has. It's set on Maui, whose history and economics inform the story's progress, and Johnson draws its landscapes and buildings—as well as the flora that symbolize the island's past—with a sure grasp of what it feels like to be there. The story has more to do with psychological intricacies than with plot: Loren Foster, a private school student and son of a dentist, is in his final year of high school, and his best friend Shane Hokama is drifting away from him and into a seamy crowd. Trying to become a man and ditch his too-innocent image without being destroyed by the transformation, Loren follows Shane into Maui's smalltime underworld, smoking crystal meth and getting dangerously mixed up in petty crime. The bold, high-contrast artwork includes some smart experimental touches: we see most of the story from Loren's point of view: whatever's in the panel (including him) is what he's thinking about. Johnson's storytelling is clear and masterful, and his characters' body language says as much about them as their words. An exciting debut from a talent to watch. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Johnson's debut is a coming-of-age story that avoids the pitfalls common to the type. Loren Foster, a transplant from the mainland, is a straight-A student at an elite prep school on Maui. Estranged from his former best friend, Shane, he reconnects by falling in with a circle of druggie friends. Loren's studies slide as he and his new crowd commit petty crimes, leading to an inevitable downfall. Johnson convincingly and nonjudgmentally portrays the internal struggle of mildly disaffected teens at a turning point in their lives. Nature is an integral element in the story, from the weeds that threaten to take over the home Loren shares with his father to the foliage that envelops him at the end. Johnson draws with a confident bravado that is particularly impressive in a young cartoonist, and his narrative skills are equally assured. His depiction of Hawaii, while creating a visceral sense of place, avoids the standard "tropical paradise" cliches. Much of the story unfolds at night, allowing Johnson to show off his skill at using solid black areas to shape powerful compositions. Seldom has an artist's initial graphic novel been this accomplished and rewarding. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (November 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560977191
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560977193
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Set on Maui, Johnson's debut graphic novel is told entirely from the perspective of Loren, a haole (white) high-school senior whose family relocated from Boston five years ago. Loren is a slightly awkward, mild-mannered, straight-A AP student at a the local elite prep school (which appears to be modeled after Seabury Hall, one of Maui's three prep schools). He's slowly drifted apart from his best (and apparently only) friend Shane, who has abandoned their midnight fishing excursions in favor of hanging out on the "wrong" (ie. Filipino) side of the island to smoking batu (crystal meth) with a 30-year-old dealer.

Displaying true self-destructive teenage behavior, Loren is decides to join Shane on one of these batu runs. And in true drug culture form, it's never just a simple matter of purchasing and consuming. Rather, Loren gets caught up in some slightly more serious stuff which leads to an inevitable crisis. But it's a only hard to buy Loren's fall from grace if you buy into the original grace. Despite his straight As, Loren's home life is pretty lonely as he putters around the motherless, siblingless house all alone while his dentist father works long hours to pay the mortgage and meet the school fees. Loren is slightly disaffected, slightly disillusioned, somewhat ill at ease with his low-key nerd rep, and so it's not too hard to see him taking this walk on the wild side.

Mixed into this is some information about the island's flora and fauna which serves a metaphorical adjunct to Loren's situation. At times the story is interrupted by biology book excerpts discussing how non-native plants and invasive species came to Hawaii over the years. It's hard to miss the meaning, as Loren is both haole invader and haole outsider.
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On first read I wanted this book to be better. I felt like there were bits of the art (especially the Dad's lawn and the last few pages) which were excellent and evocative and there were bits of the story that I liked. But I also found it profoundly depressing, probably because it felt cliche. But on second look, I think Johnson does a fine job of playing with two different sets of cliches, the drugs-are-bad-and-will-ruin-your-life cliche and the wayward-kid-with-bad-friends-finally-figures-it-out-before-it-is-too-late cliche and teases us with both. The nice but challenging ending plays even better when you read from the beginning a second time.

But the structural complexity of this text is subtle and moves in the silences between subplots, frames and even characters in the panels. So unlike something like the excellent Blankets, which wears its struggles in the art and plot in the surface disruption of the panels, The Maxx and Swamp Thing: Love and Death style, this book asks things of the graphic novel reader that perhaps we are not used to.

After the more showy, hip work of Ware, Robinson and Clowes, this book is both challenging and refreshing. And style-wise it seems to want to move between the hipness of someone like Abel and the unhipness of someone like Pekar.

Art, style and plot-wise, this book wants to make lots of movements under the guise of simplicity and stillness, which is a great thing in its own right, and it also speaks to (at least my stereotypes of) the book's Hawaiian setting.

There are still elements of the book that are not 5 star caliber, and the tensions I outline above do not work as nicely as I would hope all of the time, but for the price, this is a good book to check out. I just added it to my syllabus for the comic book class I teach.
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Format: Paperback
Hawaii has a long reputation as an "island paradise," but it's not like that anymore, if it ever was. It's pretty much like everywhere else in the United States, with widening divisions between socioeconomic classes, a raging drug problem, professional men who have trouble paying the mortgage, and teenagers from good schools who become stupid and get in trouble with the law. The somewhat geeky Loren Foster came to Maui from Boston in 6th Grade; now, five years later, he's saddled with backbreaking work for his AP classes, can't get a relationship started with the basketball-playing girl of his choice, and has no idea what he's going to do after graduation. His best friend, Shane Hokama, has gotten mixed up with crystal meth and a thirty-year-old pusher, together with a Hawaiian kid named Eustace. Loren, wanting to fit in with his supposed peer group, naturally gets roped into the dope world as well. Only the guys are paying for the stuff with stolen merchandise. Johnson has a sure hand with a pen and a clear eye for adolescent characters, and his "comic book novella" is one of the best written, best drawn, and most uncompromisingly (and depressingly) realistic I've seen in some time. And the "ending" doesn't really end anything -- just like real life. An amazingly beautiful and first-rate piece of work.
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Format: Paperback
I bought Night Fisher as a gift on the recommendation of a friend who owns a comic-book store. It didn't seem like the type of thing to interest me, but I was hooked from the very first page. There is a simple beauty to both the art and the writing that can, at times, take your breath away. The author's gift for perspective is particularly impressive, almost as if he's a film director that catches each character and each scene from precisely the right angle. I've read _alot_ of graphic novels, but more so than any others I've seen, this should be treated as literature in the best possible sense of the word.
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