True Travel Tales 1-3

Posted: Wednesday, June 9, 2004
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of True Travel Tales 1-3 Creator(s): Justin Hall
Publishers: All Thumbs Press (Self Published)
From: USA
Price: $2.95-3.95(US)

This anthology shows Justin illustrating his own and friends' travel experiences, with observations and reflects on life. They range from brief sexual encounters in ancient ruins to the harrowing story of a woman's psychological break-down while on a tour bus in Mexico and the efforts of her fellow travellers to look after her and ensure she gets back home safely.

The adage that truth is stranger than fiction is born out by these stories. The main characters are all travellers in unfamiliar surroundings and having to interact with people who see things differently. Each issue has a slightly different feel to it. The first contains episodes that mix the humorous and the bizarre - they are matter of fact recollections of events that stuck in the mind of the travellers involved: A guy in a band recalls when the singer set himself on fire, a woman decided to teach a flasher a lesson, a chap runs from hallucinations. They are observation in tone and leave it up to the reader to find meaning if any.

Issue 2 have a more self reflective tone with the narrators analysing the experiences and their reactions. There's a feeling that these stories are striving for importance or relevance and Justin is connecting the dots for the readers. Amongst them is a comic related piece where a guy high on drugs finds himself in an awkward situation and starts hallucinating about how things would play out if he was in a Hugo Pratt story like the ones he has been reading recently.

Issue 3 contains just the one story where a member of a tour bus group starts to manifest multiple personalities and her behaviour becomes more and more bizarre. The other members of the tour have to help her out because of fears of what will happen to her if she is institutionalised in Mexico. It's an intense and gripping story that convincingly justifies completely the profound effects the events are shown to have on the narrator.

Justin has an attractive art style which looks much like the work of Joe Sacco. The stories are narrative driven, so there's little in the way of gimmicky visuals. This tends to make one overlook the good work that Justin is doing.

These books are engaging in their emotional honesty and the interesting range of locations and experiences they recount. The plots are the more gripping for not being over dramatised, though the stories in issue two came across as slightly forced in their relevance. In a medium that is often accused of being too childish, these books stand as glowing examples of just how mature and evocative comics can be.

In a Word: Explorations.

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