From Publishers Weekly
French's work always splits the difference between cuteness and revulsion, and her new graphic novel is both the sweetest and the most stomach-churning thing she's ever drawn. Budding artist Edison Steelhead is a grotesquely deformed boy—his eyes are on opposite sides of his head—whose mother died in childbirth. His father wants Edison to get radical plastic surgery. After Edison refuses, his father brings home a "new sister" for him, Patrice, who's a bug-eating chimpanzee in a baby-doll dress. Then things get really weird. Edison heads off to seek his fortune in the city, his father continues to try to get him to hide or change his face, and the book's point becomes less and less its plot and more French's astonishing artwork—just a small, wobbly-bordered panel or two on each page, rendered in feather-soft pencil textures. Edison's bildungsroman involves a bunch of exquisitely rendered symbolic motifs: flies, fishing lures, tweezers, dismal hotel wallpaper and some gruesomely sexual-looking geoducks. Miraculously, French keeps The Ticking
's tone deadpan and charming, with laconic captions and long silent sequences—even the grossest moments are played for nervous giggles. She's an inimitable and masterful stylist, a kind of Edward Gorey who draws out the whimsical side of body-horror. (Mar.)
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When Edison Steelhead is born, his mother dies, and his father, seeing that Edison resembles him, flees with the newborn to a lighthouse on an islet. An occasional visitor boats over, and then his father has Edison draw a mask over his wall-eyed, earless, bald head. Once the boy goes with his father to a doctor, who proposes surgery that he says is better done sooner than later. But Edison rejects the procedure. Just after returning home, father presents Edison with "your new sister"--a chimp named Patrice. All along, Edison draws found objects: insects, cigarette butts, twists of tissue, the scars on father's head. When he grows up and leaves the islet, he illustrates a fly-fishing catalog. Exploiting the texture of the drawing paper, French defines shapes with shading more than line, and she makes Edison's drawings stylistically distinct from the narrative continuum. Proceeding, quite often without words, one or two frames per page rather than in most comics' nine-panel grids, she fashions a gem that means more with every reading. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved