White Picket Fences: Double Feature original graphic novel
Writers: Matt Anderson & Eric Hutchins
Artists: Micah Farritor, Brian Mead & Tim Lattie
Colors: Micah Farritor & Brian Mead
Letters: David Hedgecock
Editor: Kevin Freeman
Publisher: Ape Entertainment
Price: $6.95 US
While this book reads more like a short collection of a couple of issues, the Comics Space website for the property bills it as an original graphic novel. Actually, it’s an original graphic anthology, with the same setting and characters appearing in all three stories. This is my first exposure to White Picket Fences, which apparently has already been published as a limited series, with another on the horizon. It’s a cute, comic tribute to science-fiction and super-heroes of a bygone era. While entertaining, there’s little that’s actually original to be found here — save for its visual style. The exaggerated, angular art on the opening and closing sequences, as well as an unconventional approach to coloring, really held my interest. While there’s not a great of logic in how the characters act in these stories, there’s no denying the charm, sense of adventure and — most of all — innocence that draws one into this all-ages book.
The town of Greenview is pretty much the ideal, all-American community. Kids daydream in school, friends play ball and dare each other, and pals enjoy a sweet treat once in a while down at the local soda parlor. Yes, Greenview seems like the idyllic, if average, town. Sure, there’s the occasional mad scientist who kidnaps teens for his evil experiments and the occasional giant insect running amok down Main Street, but hey, what town doesn’t face problems like that from time to time? One might say that young friends Tom, Charlie and Parker have seen it all, but what they haven’t seen in person, they’ve witnessed in the mind’s eye.
Micah Farritor’s illustrations for the first segment establish and maintain a brisk pace throughout the short story. His line style looks something like an odd cross between the art of Ted (Courtney Crumrin) Naifeh and Dave (Puffed) Crosland. When there’s more action, the flow of the visuals isn’t as clear as it could be, but overall, his exaggerated, lanky figures are pleasing and entertaining to the eye. I found I was most impressed, though, with the muted colors that the artist brings to bear in the first and final stories. Those tones walk a fine line between a darker mood and the inherent lightness of the storytelling. There’s an eerie tone the colors bring to the mix that’s in keeping with the extra-normal elements, but one never gets a real sense of menace from the atmosphere either.
Lattie’s artwork for the third story is consistent with Farritor’s style. I like the unusual perspectives and sharp closeups he employs to keep the conversational scenes moving along nicely. Brian Mead’s art for the second story is much different, though it still maintains the cute, innocent charm of the characters and concepts. Mead’s style puts one in mind of the work of such artists as Eric (Justice League of America #0) Wight and Dean (Brawl) Haspiel. Now the tone of the story is the sort of thing that will appeal to those — and there’s no shortage of us, I’m sure — who enjoyed the various Calvin & Hobbes strips that saw Calvin daydream about his adventures as Spaceman Spiff and other heroes.
It’s clear that I’m missing a little bit of information the kids’ science teacher, the heroic Mr. Reason. At first, I thought he was supposed to be something of a mystery, but now that I’m aware of the preceding three-issue limited series, I wonder if there’s some backstory the creators have failed to share with new readers here. It’s a minor point, though, and it’s easy for the new reader to accept it and soldier on through the fun.
Ultimately, what White Picket Fences seems to be about is the quirky, amusing notion that the creations of a young boy’s imagination all not only possible but probable, but those monstrous manifestations pose no more danger to them than do their dreams. In some ways, White Picket Fences reminds me a little of the oddball sci-fi series Eureka, where the impossible is routine. Both are about communities and people who have seen the extraordinary become part of the everyday experience, and adventure and a life of normality and stability needn’t be mutually exclusive notions. 7/10