Posted by Don MacPherson on October 26th, 2009
Blood Orange mini-comic
Writer: Justin Giampaoli
Artist: Grant Lee
Publisher: June Lake Press
No price listed
Reviewing comics affords me the opportunity to sample material (a) of which I might have been unaware, (b) in which I may not have had an initial interest or (c) to which I might not have had access. Blood Orange falls under the latter category, as mini-comics tend not to see wide distribution. This one (out of California, I think) is a slice-of-life story based on a poignant premise. That being said, writer Justin Giampaoli and artist Grant Lee offer up some awkward storytelling. It’s an interesting foray into amateur comics craft, and when one looks at Giampaoli’s previous dabblings in the medium, one can see that his writing has evolved over time.
A mother and father struggle as they reach a dark turning point in their lives, and while they don’t know they’ll get through it, they are determined to do so. Weighing on their minds more than anything else, though, is how to broach the subject with their young son, who will no doubt be unable to understand the family’s plight. Instead, father and son go outside and pick oranges from the tree growing in the front yard. The boy spends the next week blissfully unaware of the problems with which his parents must contend as they shelter him from the storm in their lives.
Grant Lee’s artwork is a bit of a mixed bag. The first two pages, which depict only the characters’ home, are flat and fail to establish the realistic, grounded tone called for by the plot and premise. Of course, the figures on the third page are well done, and I especially liked the perspective in the final panel that conveys just how young the boy is. Subsequent pages don’t boast the same attractive figures, though, and the art slowly becomes more and more amateurish in appearance as the issue progresses. Of course, Lee ends on a strong note, as he offers a lovely still life of a piece of fruit on the last page.
I think the real-life idea for this story is an interesting one and makes for a compelling story about problems that people face every day. Unfortunately, Giampaoli goes awry with the execution. The first part of the story boasts a deceivingly sinister tone, reinforced not only by the title but by the boy’s disappearance in the latter pages of the story. Of course, that dark tone proves to be a bit of misdirection. I can only assume that this was the writer’s intent, especially given the title for his mini-comic. He does his story a disservice in that respect. It’s a pattern that one can find in his previous work. He sent me a copy of a 2002 mini-comic he wrote entitled The Mercy Killing, which starts off with a Dick and Jane-like approach to the narration, then giving way to a darker, crime-fiction riff, only to shift gears once again by the end of the book.
The problem with the scripting and plotting made evident on the last page of Blood Orange, which features an explosion of text in an otherwise quiet mini-comic. It’s with that last page that Giampaoli explains everything that happened in the rest of the book. We need that information to not only appreciate the emotional resonance but to recognize it. Still, one shouldn’t write this story off. Instead, Giampaoli ought to revise it. I suspect Blood Orange 2.0 would be much more user-friendly than the first version.4/10
For more information about this mini-comic and the writer, visit his website.
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