Sunday, 19 July 2020

In Review - 'Victory Point' by Owen D. Pomery.

Victory Point.

Created by Owen D. Pomery.

Hardcover - 80 pages - 160mm x 210mm.
Full Colour - £14.99.

Published by Avery Hill.

The Story - During one summer we follow Ellie as she returns to the coastal town of Victory Point. In the bright sunlight she arrives by train to the place that she grew up to visit her family. As she walks around a town that has a singular architectural vision we join her in revisiting the past. 

Does Ellie feel like she still belongs here? Will this visit home refresh something she has lost?

The Review - It's been around a year since I last reviewed a comic from Avery Hill. It's not that they haven't been releasing product but rather that I hadn't been feeling what they had put out books that connected with me. I'd been looking forward to reading the next graphic novel from Owen as I'd enjoyed Between the Billboards and British Ice last year from Top Shelf Comics. 

I pre-ordered Victory Point and it arrived just a couple of days ago. 

This is a gorgeous book. A small hardback with the cover design printed straight onto the book instead of using a dust jacket. The blue of the sea draws the eye immediately and you can then roam the cover spotting the idiosyncratic buildings and flowing curves of the walls and pavements as they perfectly slice into the curve of the coast. Then relevant to the story is the image of Ellie standing alone and being part of the townscape and the shadows cast. Then above in the faint grey sky is the subtle title. It's a book cover that cleverly mimics a photographic coffee table book with it's broad shot and bold colours. It also cunningly echoes the story inside.

As Ellie walks the streets of the town she rediscovers, discovers and remembers what was there before and realises that things do change. You begin to get to know the area as she explores and the involvement her family had there. She meets up with her father, sees people she used to know and goes swimming. She even makes a new friend who has opened a local café. Ellie also has that feeling of dissatisfaction in her life that borders on moments of being a little lost and without direction. You can imagine that she has returned home to recharge and learn a little bit more about herself through that reach back into the past.

As you can see from the pages above this book is intricately drawn and Owen's background as an architect has translated over to comics with often breath-taking effects. It is this that is the highlight of this graphic novel for me whilst reading. I was straightaway drawn to this town and caught up in Owen's nefarious conspiracy to make me think that it is real.

'In 1933, the village of Victory Point was the selected site of an architectural experiment. Funded by both the government and private investors, they appointed the architect, M.L. Schreiber, to redesign the town on new principles, hoping to create a visionary example of 'a modern way to live'.

It is worthy of note at this point that if you google 'M.L. Schreiber architect' it comes back with a link to the Avery Hill website. 

Pomery!!! You are a cruel man. I was planning my next holiday.

So, we can all I agree I am sure that this is an excellently drawn and designed book. The only exception that I would make is in the faces of the characters. Owen carries on his style in Victory Point that we have seen in his previous works of intentionally counterpointing the full detail of the surroundings with a style that could be described as 'under-drawing' the faces of his characters.  He uses the technique of often just showing dots for eyes and lines for mouths. Whilst I totally understand that this is intentional I'd love to see more in the faces. Ellie's father, for example, is crying out for more craggy and lined details. As he builds a boat and sets sail or just lays down some home-spun wisdom I'd have liked to have seen more.

What is the book saying? It certainly captures a moment. You feel that time has at once stood still in Victory Point with the time capsule buildings and streets but that it has also significantly moved along for Ellie. The question floats ever present of whether or not we can return to our past. Many of us have felt this connection/disconnection when we return home from the early pressures of University or our first job. We want to feel refreshed and also at once tackle in a safer and familiar environment some of our new problems as a new out of the box adult. The world Ellie has left has changed and her father's bones creak as he walks up the stairs. As she goes to catch her train back to her life the rain falls and she pauses with a woman she'd met earlier. This woman is a vision of what she could become. 

'I study the heaven. They cause the waves at my feel' - Dr Abigail Small. 

This is a book that on an initial read I have to admit to finding a little empty. I wondered what the point was with it all. After all many of us have felt that feeling of returning home to recharge and it all seeming at once the same but new and different. But there are two things that brought me round on a second read. The brilliantly realised landscapes on show in Owen's art and the pacing. This is a book that never rushes and takes that time to explain, show and develop. It's the visually stunning and at once restful to read. It's the graphic novel version of laying on a summer beach where a clock stops. 

This is also a wonderful deception. A false landscape fully at home with it's own verisimilitude.

Nicely done- more please.

You can find a copy of this book here. You can follow Avery Hill Publishing here on Twitter. 

You can find out more about Owen D. Pomery here and follow him on Twitter here

Many thanks for reading.