Sunday, March 22, 2009


By Kevin Hodgson
Staff Writer


We don't often associate graphic novels with collaboration but THE LOST ONES pushes that envelope in interesting ways. Author Steve Niles, who has written many creepy books in the horror genre, switches gears here and invites four teams of illustrators to create the artwork for four parts of a story of four friends who invent a time machine and land on different versions of Earth as they try to get back "home" to their own Earth reality. The tale could have been stronger, I think, but Niles does a nice job of playing with our perceptions of time and also, with our love of comics. On one Earth, for example, the entire culture has been created around a supply of comic books that were found and become almost like the written history of the world. The development of the four main characters was also a bit weak, although Niles tries to show some of the budding relationships between the four explorers. THE LOST ONES has potential but never quite gets off the ground, from the story standpoint. Still, if you like toying with time travel and science fiction (laced with humor), this story might fit the bill.

This graphic novel is an interesting montage of illustrators. While Niles wrote the story, he passed off the illustrations to four teams – including Morning Breath, Dr. Revolt, Gary Panther, and Kime Buzzelli. Each has a very unique style and the shift from one section of the story to another is a bit jarring and unsettling. I don't say this in a negative way, as the artwork is engaging on different levels. From the graffiti styles of Dr. Revolt to the retro-vibe of Morning Breath, the expanse of the art in THE LOST ONES allows the reader to experience the shift in time zones and versions of Earth. In this way, the change of illustrators works in tandem with the story.

I am not sure how this book would have a place in the reading curriculum, other than for pleasure reading (which should always be encouraged, right?), but I can see how THE LOST ONES might be used effectively for an art class. Students could discuss and think about how the different styles of illustrations work or don't work for various points of the storyline. And they could illustrate their own scene in various styles, reflecting on how a piece of writing shifts with the artistic element. From a writing standpoint, this book might be a good model for collaboration for a graphic novel project, showing how a writer hands off control to an illustrator.

You can get a digital version of the novel from Zune Arts. There were just a limited number of hard-copy books published by Zune, so your best bet might be the free digital version (which I imagine might make it even more interesting for students). Click here to read the Newsarama interview with Steve Niles.

Publisher: Zune Arts
Author: Steve Niles
Illustrators: Morning Breath, Dr. Revolt, Gary Panther, and Kime Buzzelli
Format: Softcover and PDF
Color: Full color
Pages: 43

I would recommend this book for the classroom, particularly for those students with an interest in art and in science fiction. There is nothing inappropriate in here (surprising, given Niles' other work as a writer) and the book would be of interest to middle school and high school readers, I think.

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