Writer: John McLaughlin
Art: Mick Reinman
Letters: Troy Peteri
Publisher: Arcana Studios
Reviewed By: Jake Watt for Geekality
Bill Paxton, the actor whose film and TV work includes such personal favs as, oh… Aliens, Near Dark, Frailty, A Simple Plan, and Big Love (to name but a few) has produced a new graphic novel, entitled “7 Holes for Air”, written by John McLaughlin and illustrated by Mick Reinman.
In a July interview with Crave Online, Paxton said “I’m hoping to eventually direct it as a film, but I love the story so much and the screenplay, I wanted it to exist on some level. So the graphic novel serves a few purposes for me. It’s a chance to get the story out where people can enjoy it, even if it never becomes a film, but hopefully if it does become a film, it’s a great backbone in terms of my art department and my storyboards.”
The story focuses on Bob, a 50-year old taciturn blue collar steelworker whose reality oscillates from his everyday existence into a Spaghetti Western where he is a tough cowboy straight from the pages of a Zane Grey novel. When an unforseen event impacts his life, Bob’s tight-knit family rallies around him in support as the adventures of his Spaghetti Western alter-ego get darker. Think Tarsem Singh’s 2006 adventure fantasy film The Fall by way of DC Comics’ Jonah Hex.
“7 Holes For Air” began as a film script Bill Paxton was eyeing to star in before he pitched the idea as a graphic novel, and it’s evident in John McLaughlin’s writing. From the opening pages, where the reader tries to puzzle how the two universes are intertwined, to the surprisingly touching ending, it’s a very “cinematic” read. The dialogue, particularly in the case of Bob and his wife Lisa, really gives you a sense of who these characters are. Bob is the hard-drinking, hard-talking tough guy, and Lisa is the level-headed one who loves Bob despite his gruffness.
The comic features an omniscient narrator, sharing blunt observations like “Lisa’s eyes are heavy with sleep, while she pours coffee for herself and grabs a bowl for Bob”. The narration could have used some tightening for the graphic novel format, as it sometimes becomes too heavy-handed and unnecessary. For example, the reader can see Lisa is watching Bob from inside the car, so we don’t need the additional “She watches him for a while from inside the car” caption. Less can be more, and it’s these instances where the art should be able to breathe and convey what is happening on the page.
McLaughlin’s story is actually quite engaging. As we share more time with Bob, he evolves from gruff and unlikeable into a more sympathetic character (particularly when the relevance of the titular “7 Holes For Air” is revealed). Lisa and his extremely patient brother-in-law, James, are a lot more likeable – you can relate to the way they negotiate around Bob’s stubbornness and gruff responses with bemused familiarity.
Mick Reinman’s scratchy artwork and blurred colouring is excellent in the cowboy action sequences, and works well to convey things like the speed and motion of a gun fight or a thrown deck of cards. However, the art becomes a little too murky when it comes to illustrating the more static, mundane reality of the story in the everyday world. Another problem is that the facial expressions occasionally become muddled, with Reinman’s art sometimes unable to convey the subtle emotions required by the story.
Even without advance warning from Bill Paxton, “7 Holes For Air” is pretty obviously an illustrated screenplay rather than a project originally conceived as a graphic novel. But the story is so intriguing and the characters so well rounded that it’s still easy to recommend.