By Leroy Douresseaux
July 27, 2008 - 12:56
Mature Readers (16+)
Early on, Too Cool to Be Forgotten, the new graphic novel from Alex Robinson (Box Office Poison), comes across as a Hollywood movie high concept – something like Back to the Future meets “Freaks and Geeks.” This is Alex Robinson, however, and he uses his graphic novels to investigate the human condition in ways only a few other North American cartoonists (Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Chester Brown, and Daniel Clowes, for example) do.
In Too Cool to Be Forgotten, forty-something father of two, Robert Andrew Wicks has failed at everything he’s tried to quit smoking. He gives hypnosis a try, and something shocking happens. Andy Wicks finds himself transported back to 1985, the epicenter of his formative years as a gangly, braces-wearing teenager. Instead of allowing himself to be doomed to repeat the failures of his past, Andy takes this as a chance to get things right. He’s finally going to ask that girl from math class out on a date, but the new, cool teen Andy still has to face the darkest time of his early life.
Alex Robinson seems to enjoy creating complex characters. With each one, he seems delighted to take his readers on these journeys in which he crawls into each individual player and looks for the secrets and lies, learns what makes a character tick, and anticipates a character’s actions and reactions to particular situations. It’s as if Robinson were as much in the dark as we readers are, although he’s the storyteller. Sometimes, this attention to detail gets bogged down in too much detail (his graphic novel, Tricked).
That’s not a problem with Too Cool to Be Forgotten. Here, Robinson is investigating the interiors of one character – Andy Wicks. Without giving away this novel’s surprise, Too Cool to Be Forgotten makes the argument that a life in which one does not stop and consider the past is a life nagged by regrets and missteps. Perhaps, life is built upon people’s reaction and decisions to many pivotal moments, not just one life-changing event. Life isn’t just about the choices one makes because no one lives in a vacuum. Too Cool to Be Forgotten is just that kind of skillful examination of a life, one that mesmerizes with its insistence that every life is a treasure chest of the deliciously bittersweet.
Or to put it simply: this is Alex Robinson. He’s done good again. Too Cool to Be Forgotten cheerfully delves into the boredom and drudgery of high school, and takes the glamour out of the fun side – smoking, drinking, partying, and dating. In a popular culture obsessing over comics-related media like Batman, Iron Man, and Watchmen, it would be nice to see more readers discovering something like Too Cool to Be Forgotten.