David Shenton’s Get Her!1 is the maddest, weirdest and colorfullest (!) graphic novel I’ve read in quite some time. Of course, Shenton is no stranger to weirdness in comics, as his Stanley and the mask of mystery graphic novel can attest.
But this time, he’s surpassed himself: Des is a young British guy who has dreams of becoming a singer. Fortunately for him, his mysterious uncle Frank, who lives in Manchester (not exactly the same version of the city as Queer As Folk‘s), has done just that, to the displeasure of his family. Because Frank has not only become a singer, but also a fierce drag-queen, who quickly understands the potential of his naïve nephew, and decides to mold him to his own design. Then enters Jeff, the wacky son of a wealthy romance writer, a woman somwhere between Barbara Cartland and, I don’t know, Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Jeff seems interested in Des, who is unfortunately not interested in men. Oh no. Absolutely not.
High jinks ensue, transforming the expected rags-to-riches story into an indescribable and hysterical tale full of twists and turns, wherein Des loses his naïveté in more ways than one.
There’s something reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in this book: a willingness to launch ideas into the wild and see what happens, as well as a playfulness which creates a delicious disorientation for the reader, who never knows where the story is going. As for the characters themselves, and there are a lot of them, they’re all somewhat over-the-top, as is everything in this book, including the art.
The 250 pages are filled to the brim in a manner which could make it unreadable, but which instead give the reader the impression of being immersed in a world at first sight (mostly) realistic, but in fact full of impossible colors and happenings. Shenton’s art is very recognizable, giving us characters who don’t look like they sport gym-trained bodies and faces without the obligatory square, cleft chin. The storytelling ranges from classical to experimental, from panel repetitions to full-page collages, with an integration of dialogue balloons and captions that would shame some mainstream artists.
It is fascinating to see an artist coming back to comics after a long absence (at least, as far as I know). More than twenty years after his Stanley book, Shenton is back in the game, serialising on his site a series of strips he’s done over the years, including gay-themed ones. All of them are funny, a lot veer toward the absurd, and reading them will give you a good idea of Shenton’s unique brand of humor. As for Get Her!, it’s so rich, and not only visually, that it deserves to be widely read, thus encouraging David Shenton to produce another book, which will undoubtedly be as unpredictable as this one.