Review: ‘Too Cool To Be Forgotten’ by Alex Robinson
We’ve all occasionally wanted to go back in time — to fix something we screwed up the first time, to relive some particular time in our lives, or just to do something differently. But would we be able to do better the second time around? Alex Robinson’s new graphic novel — coming up in July from Top Shelf — asks exactly those questions.
Too Cool To Be Forgotten
By Alex Robinson
Top Shelf, July 2008, $14,95
In 2010, Andy Wicks is coming up on his fortieth birthday — he’s married with two daughters and working as a computer technician. And, to finally stop smoking, he agrees to his wife’s suggestion to get himself hypnotized.
He closes his eyes, listens to the doctor…and wakes up in his 15-year-old body, back in 1985. He soon decides that some kind of hypnotic construct — though he never internalizes that thought, or really acts as if it’s true — and that the whole scenario is designed to make him decide not to have his first cigarette, and thus stop smoking back up in his own time.
Now, I am a former science fiction editor, so I probably think about this stuff more than most people, but Andy never seems to really think through his situation, or quite decide how old he is. He never really thinks of himself as a 15-year-old; his self-image stays solidly middle-aged. But he also doesn’t think through the consequences of that — he thinks of other high-school students, who are exactly the same age he is, as “kids.”
It might seem odd to ding Andy for lack of introspection, when [[[Too Cool To Be Forgotten]]] simmers in a stew of introspection. Once he’s back in 1985, every page is filled with long internal dialogues, as Andy thinks about his high-school life, compares it with his future, and obsessively reminisces. (He’s extremely believable as a middle-aged fart put back into high school; he doesn’t shut up about himself for a second to think about what’s happening to him.)
Robinson focuses his story entirely on Andy as well, adding weight to the theory that this is all going on in his head. The other characters don’t really respond to his wildly out-of-context outbursts, as when he’s startled to find that he still has hair, or the dozen times that he doesn’t know what’s going on.
Actually, Andy’s obsessive monologuing serves a story purpose — Robinson has palmed a card, and keeps it hidden until almost the end. I won’t give away his ending, but I can say that one aspect of the situation is not exactly as Andy assumes it is.
Robinson’s art marries lots of mostly small panels with large areas of black with those massive cascades of thought and dialogue balloons (mostly Andy’s), giving his pages a slightly claustrophobic feel. But Andy’s voice is thoughtful and familiar, a version of the internal musings of every aging Gen-Xer, so it’s not unpleasant to spend so much time in his head.
In the end, I didn’t think Too Cool To Be Forgotten really made full use of its time-travel premise; Andy is so detached that he might as well have been back in his own time. Less navel-gazing could have helped the book in general. But, for those of us who are about the same age, Too Cool To Be Forgotten will open up our own obsessive navel-gazing and thoughts about what was, what might have been, and what never ever had a chance.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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