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Ice Haven    by Daniel Clowes order for
Ice Haven
by Daniel Clowes
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

In an eccentric and humorous manner, Daniel Clowes writes and draws interwoven tales in Ice Haven, a graphic novel about the various idiosyncratic residents of a town of the same name. Like his previous works, which include Ghost World (made into a movie in 2002) and Artschool Confidential, Clowes provides reflection and social commentary on a variety of topics including sexuality, relationships, and critics.

Several different narratives play out through the course of the book - not in sequential order, but rather sections from each story are intermixed with other sections, as one would break up a play or soap opera. The main focus is on events affecting residents new and old, while occasional asides introduce idle fantasies, nightmares or funky acid-trips. It is hard to describe the plot, beyond the discovery that a boy, David Goldberg, has gone missing and many townsfolk are somehow affected by this. Clowes portrays mildly eccentric characters to whom readers can relate. They aren't extremely weird, but all have an odd twist.

Clowes' style remains constant throughout. His use of tinted panels - reflecting dreams, fantasies or just idle thoughts - works to keep the reader on track with what's happening. His consistency throughout this graphic novel helps, especially given a decent sized cast of major and minor characters. The text, whether exposition or dialogue, reveals Clowes' comedic talents as well as his skill at capturing a range of dialogue styles among his characters. The author also provides interesting comments on sex.

Plot-oriented, action-packed, and intense would be the least likely designations for this graphic novel. Its reach and ideas are subtle, of most interest to the hardcore independent graphic novel reader. Clowes delivers a decent dose of curious insights and randomness to which one can continually return for refills.

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