SPARKS - AN URBAN FAIRYTALE by Lawrence Marvit
Noticed a copy of this book in the library. It's a thick 428 page book published in 2002, which according to the backcover collects the five issues of the comic series SPARKS plus 160 new pages finishing the story. I don't recall ever seeing the series or the book, but that's not too surprising for Slave Labor published work, unfortunately.
It's the story of a young girl, Jo, who works as a mechanic and has trouble fitting in to society and her family, and how her life is affected when a mechanical man she builds out of car parts comes to life. He gets the name Galahad from a young boy playing King Arthur, and begins to explore life with Jo's help, leading to her learning a thing or two herself.
It's quite an odd book. With over 400 pages it has a lot of room, and tells a lot of different types of stories within the larger framework. Parts of it are about the wonder of discovery and curiosity, starting with Galahad's education in language and then life, leading to the re-awakening of Jo's own dormant curiosity about things. Other parts are about Jo's life in the real world and trying to fit in, so there are huge parts of the book that are completely divorced from the fantasy elements. Other parts of the book are more about visual inventiveness in the storytelling, leading to a few segments devoted to depicting small actions in interesting ways. And then the ending turns into the climax of a giant action movie, so that's a whole other thing right there.
According to his bio, writer/artist Marvit has a background in animation, which makes sense when you look at the book. Simple but bold character designs, meant to convey the maximum amount of emotion and movement in few lines, well thought out backgrounds and frequent silent scenes where the body language and actions are able to carry the story.
It's not perfect, of course, but that's to be expected from someone doing a 400+ page story as his first comic book work. I thought some of the transitions from one storyline to another were awkward (especially the final shift to the big action movie climax), and some of the more "adult" elements didn't fit in with the rest of the book. Sometimes the dialogue was a bit weak (this may also have been amplified by the lettering, which is very mechanical. I think a looser more organic hand lettering style would have fit the story better). But nothing major that distracts much from the stronger elements.
Overall a book well worth seeking out, and I hope we see more from the creator (all I can find is that he did some artwork for a few projects by Mike Allred and Paul Dini).
The publisher, Slave Labor, has a preview from the original first issue here, although it doesn't really get into the heart of the story and the more visually inventive stuff.