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The Ragbox

The Ragbox is a comic written by Dave Kender and drawn by three artists: Mark Hamilton, Braden Lamb, and Matthew Reinke (each artist handling one of the three chapters).  Kender is the founder of the Boston Roundtable group.  This is a short book -- the pleasures in reading it are not really for the plot so there will be spoilers ahead. (It's also available as a webcomic here; you can buy the book at the store here.)

The story starts off, "One night, in a neighborhood called the Ragbox."  The first chapter is a simple scene of a brother and sister waiting for their parents to return amidst hearing the sirens of emergency vehicles responding to a fire in their neighborhood.  Kender nicely shows a lot about the two characters, brother and sister, without saying too much.  You could call it implied exposition and it's much more effective this way.  Hamilton's art is certainly serviceable here, the heavily shadowed scenes add a bit of foreboding undercurrent to what is on the surface a scene without much activity.

Chapter two is couple of scenes -- both again I really enjoyed how well Kender shows more than he tells.  The parents died in the fire in chapter one - not directly stated, but clear enough from the conversation at the parents' funeral.  Kender hints at larger backstory through little moments: an unwanted "big shot" visitor; Roberto (the brother) taking his time getting out of the limo to avoid seeing the caskets of his parents.  The second scene of the chapter; the gathering of friends and family at a neighborhood bar after the funeral is larger in scope, revealing a bit more about Roberto and Ana (the sister) as we see Roberto's friend/girlfriend/classmate (not entirely clear) unexpectedly arrive (and not entirely welcomed by Roberto) and Ana suffer from some kind of anxiety attack.  Lamb's art in this chapter is very nice, a bit more energetic than Hamilton's with a looser, sketchier feeling, he does a great job of catching various emotions, like Ana's look at Roberto middle panel on page 17, or Roberto on the bottom of page 28.

Chapter three is a bit of the aftermath, with Roberto and Ana living in their parent's apartment (at least that seems to be the case) and is a short scene with Roberto going out to get eggs.  Unlike the other two chapters though, Roberto's memories intrude (smells from the current reconstruction site of the burnt down community center trigger it) bringing in scenes from his childhood in the neighborhood.  It's a little more direct in that way then the previous chapters but not much more.  The biggest shift in this chapter is the artwork which is an uninked, ragged pencil with lots of detail but shadow and cross-hatching throughout.  It's actually quite good for what it is, but it has the effect of really setting this chapter's look apart from the first two and not necessarily in a way that seems to fit the progression of the story. It almost makes this chapter feel less real, perhaps a possible future rather than a definite continuation of the first two chapters.  Which is probably not what Kender intended as he has already announced that there will be another book continuing the Ragbox story.

It's a good story and well worth picking up.  It feels like a good short story, with lots for the reader to fill in for themselves.  It's also the start of a longer series, Kender has set himself a pretty solid bar to live up to in future works.

 

Note: The creator provided a free copy to ComixTalk for review purposes.