The Can Opener’s Daughter (book 2) by Rob Davis (graphic novel review)

December 28, 2016 | By | Reply More

I enjoyed ‘The Can Opener’s Daughter’ by Rob Davis but it is one weird graphic novel. Mind you, men wearing their underpants on the outside to fight criminals in New York are weird, too, but we are used to super-heroes. Just as Radio can be used for the ‘Today Programme’ or ‘The Goons’, so comics, too, are a flexible medium with many possibilities. ‘The Can Opener’s Daughter’ is certainly different to mainstream comics.

In the opening scene, Vera Pike wakes up in bed to find her drunken mom leaning over her and demanding to know who she loves best: mother or father. This is unsettling for any child but even more so when mother is a big naked female covered in sharp spikes with a weather clock for a head and dad is a can opener. Not a modern electric one or anything, the old-fashioned kind that’s just a handle with a curved blade. Mother keeps him locked in a drawer in the kitchen most of the time.

He’s not very assertive. She, on the other hand, is the Prime-Minister and Vera lives with her in the vast Parliament building. Mum is usually busy, so Vera is home schooled by three talking inkpots on pedestals known as the Ink Gods. She tends to bunk off school and spend time with the other Gods, the statues in the large garden. They give her advice, ‘Listen to the warm-hearted and dear departed. Listen to the loam strangling the bones.

One day, Vera is taken to a psychiatrist, Dr. Goose-Kennington and regressed to her childhood. She recalls creating her mother in a sort of factory called the Motherless Oven and then moving to Bear Park where they lived in a small terraced house with a tiny back garden.

After the visit to the psychiatrist, Vera is sent to boarding school where she is despised for having only one surname. Everyone else has two, hyphenated. The girls work on suicide graphs which chart their future lives from career advancement to middle-aged disillusionment and suicide. They have text books on Cullcullus.

That’s a plot summary of the first fifty pages in a one hundred and fifty page book. I wouldn’t normally give away so much but it seemed the best way to convey the content which is all very strange. I was tempted to put it down but, one facet of being a dutiful reviewer, is that it forces you to persist with the difficult stuff. Often this is a good thing. Nowadays, with so much entertainment available, we are inclined to put away anything that doesn’t hook us in the first few pages, a bad habit. Keep reading and you get a chip pan with damaged Neo-Paganist filaments, a ‘Book Of Forks’ which is an encyclopaedia of all possible histories and a post-mortem of all possible futures. Hippies run a Gazette Nursery where they care for the souls of lost children. There are Errorists, hunted down by old people whose duty it is to uphold the Lore.

That’s the story. The art is more cartoonish that illustrative but perfectly acceptable and the storytelling is excellent. The layouts and camera angles work well to show Vera’s isolation at key points and to highlight dramatic moments, often with ‘silent’ panels containing no captions or word balloons. I had better make clear that it’s black and white lest some dimwit who only likes colour books should buy it in error. I would also like to mention that you get a lot of content for your money here. It’s a dense script, carefully drawn and a lot of work has gone into it. Too often, comicbook fans are foisted off with a thin plot and some splashy poster panels. Not here.

The whole thing is perhaps best summed up by a quote from a printer on page 110: ‘Making sense is overrated. It’s just confirming what people already think. Making new sense is more important.’ Probably the best thing to do with ‘The Can Opener’s Daughter’ is enjoy the inventive, original, inscrutable ride and don’t worry too much about sense. Somehow, it works. Vera has a couple of loyal friends and the story gallops down its own peculiar path to a dramatic and moving conclusion. Apparently, this is part two of a trilogy. I would like to read part one, ‘The Motherless Oven’,– and look forward to part three.

I recommend it to open-minded readers who fancy something different but don’t take whatever drugs Rob Davis is using. They obviously mess with your brain.

Eamonn Murphy

December 2016

(pub: SelfMadeHero. 160 page black and white graphic novel softcover. Price £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-91059-317-2)

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Category: Books, Comics, Fantasy

About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who writes a bit too.

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