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Red Eye, Black Eye    by K. Thor Jensen Amazon.com order for
Red Eye, Black Eye
by K. Thor Jensen
Order:  USA  Can
Alternative Comics, 2007 (2007)
Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

When it rains, it pours and Thor Jensen has just been hit by a hurricane. In a short period of time, he's lost his job, his girlfriend, his apartment, and his grandmother. Rather than let the weight of these events burden him, Jensen sets out on a mission. He's going on a poor-man's tour across the United States, loaded with nothing but an unlimited bus pass, a little money, and a lot of hope.

He doesn't just want an American experience and to see all the different parts of the country; he wants to hear anecdotal stories of everyday life from the people he encounters. He also wants to meet friends from cyberspace - or rather shack up with them for a few days before he moves on to his next location.

In sixty days, he travels over 10,000 miles. He begins and ends in New York City, but his destinations include Boston, Columbus, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, El Paso and Birmingham. While many of the online acquaintances who take him in are friendly and kind, he does meet his share of questionable and sketchy people, but that doesn't stop him from looking forward to what the next city will bring. Of course, throughout his travels he must continually feud with his former landlady who has yet to return his security check - Jensen is in desperate need of the money.

This comic travelogue of Jensen's exploits proves amusing and inspiring. His bohemian approach to life on the road isn't entirely romantic, for he doesn't hesitate to reveal some of the harder parts of a life spent in transition. However, he has an interesting take on the idea of tourism. Whenever most people travel, their goal is to collect some token or keepsake (often a cheesy overpriced, made in another country, trinket). They want a piece of the place they visited, but Jensen's tokens - though more abstract - are more appealing. From each place, he gains stories and friends that will add to his life more than any paperweight or shot glass could. He makes connections with people from all over the country.

Jensenís six-panel pages, filled with black and white art, aptly present his tale without distracting readers. He provides enough detail that readers are not confused, but does not overburden them either. His characters are distinguishable and of course, Jensen himself consistently appears throughout.

This graphic novel illuminates what some refer to as the quarter-life crisis or the desire to fill the post-collegiate emptiness that many people in their twenties experience. But unlike others, Jensen puts his aimlessness to work by setting out to see the world. Generally amusing, the book also provides somber and reflective moments that will help readers appreciate it even more.

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