I absolutely love the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, not the least of which is their extensive stock of graphic novels.
It's been a hectic few days - participating in a Deliberation Day for Focus St. Louis, commenting on the closing of a comics blog, chuckling at another's blog post, job-related networking and interviewing, all the tiem fighting one heck of a cold. Luckily, though, between naps and cups of tea, I pored through Alex Robinson's Tricked
Needless to say, I had been very impressed with Robinson's Box Office Poison, which examined the comics industry...but to say that is like saying The Wizard of Oz is about a Kansas girl who travels. Robinson's strength lies in the way he takes disparate characters, often seemingly unrelated, and bringing them together in a natural, almost effortless way.
Tricked works similar magic, but I think it's safe to say - Robinson's aimed his bar much higher. His characters are a lot more sharply defined, but his real strength lays in how he presents them. In BOP, each "chapter" was separated by a six-panel fourth-wall-breaking sequence by characters who appeared in each installment. Tricked is slightly more straightforward: however, key sequences - including a man's breakdown into madness, and a woman realizing that her beau is "the one" - help move the story forward to a great, almost surreal end.
It also helps that Robinson has a great knack for characterization - people who could have been trite cliches (a faded musician, a girl looking for her father) turn into full-on, rounded characters. (So much that, despite myself, I wished one of the characters were real.) Even though the book is thick, this is one of the easiest, most enjoyable reads out there. There are a few incidents of violence in this book, but Robinson uses them sparingly, almost as a way to forewshadow....but that would be spoiling it.
In interviews, Alan Moore had always complained that writers focused on using Watchmen more as a template for grim-and-gritty superheroes than in terms of storytelling structure. (And unlike the Howling Curmudgeons, I really believe Watchmen is a novel proper - after all, could prose be as multi-leveled as the comic? I doubt it)
At the risk of hyperbole, Tricked is the first worthy offspring of Watchmen. It works on a narrative, character, and artistic level.
You deserve to read a comic this good.