Cartoonist: Norm Konyu
WHAT IS IT?
The Junction is a powerful story about loss masquerading as a well-crafted mystery in a very unique town.
What if an episode of Twin Peaks was directed by Howard Zieff (he directed My Girl?). I was also reminded of the early ‘90s television show Eerie, Indiana crossed with an After-school Special, without the melodrama.
This could also easily be an un-produced script from an excellent episode of The Twilight Zone.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Lucas Jones was 11 years old when he disappeared in September of 1984. In June of 1996, Lucas shows up at the home of his paternal uncle and aunt. Despite 12 years passing, Lucas does not appear to have aged a day.
Detective Dave King is investigating Lucas’ disappearance and reappearance with the help of a psychologist, Dr. Jean Symonds. The story switches between the straightforward narrative of the investigation and Lucas’ illustrated journal entries.
Lucas’s journal is all about the town of Kirby Junction – a town which doesn’t seem to exist on any map. A town filled with interesting characters and impossible occurrences that deepen the mystery. Lucas’ journal reveals that he began his own investigation of some of the more fantastical elements of Kirby Junction, like the house where it is always raining and why the books at his friend Mike’s house are blank.
The story is compelling. With each new piece of information, usually through Lucas’s journal entries, I tried to work out the mystery myself. Where did Lucas go? Why hasn’t he aged? Where is his father? What is Kirby Junction? Where is Kirby Junction? I was thoroughly engaged.
As we learn more about Kirby Junction, more questions are raised. This works to continue to build momentum and keep the pace.
Kirby Junction is its own unique character. When we do get to see parts of the town, it appears as though things have just been placed randomly. Buildings are smushed together. There is no order to the layout of the town. This adds important layers to the story by creating an atmosphere of things being not quite right.
The inhabitants of the town really bring it to life. The characters are quirky without being sinister, odd not evil, and this fits with the overall mood of the story.
Lucas is an interesting character. He has his reasons for why he questions some of the odder occurrences in Kirby Junction, and why some he just accepts. Despite him being missing 12 years, he is still an 11-year-old boy and is written that way.
Without going into spoilers, I found the resolution of the mystery itself very satisfying. If this story were told strictly from Lucas’ perspective, I don’t think it would have been as effective. The mystery set-up works to draw you in. From the outset, Lucas is an outsider in a story all about him. As I learned about Lucas through his journal, I began to care about him not just as the person at the center of the investigation, but as a character that is attempting to solve some things in his life as well. So, when what happened to Lucas is fully explained, it feels earned.
It’s not just the mystery, though. This story is about loss and grief and memory. I found it to be touching and, ultimately, quite sad.
At first I wasn’t enamored with the art style, but as I read, I appreciated it more and more. The illustrations here are simple, not overly wrought. I liked how there are seemingly no squared-off borders for the panels illustrating Lucas’ diary. The art style also makes sense since this is Lucas’ story, and it feels like Lucas is telling it through the art.
The color palette of these illustrations is gorgeous. It works to develop both the setting and the mood. The haunting blues of Lucas’ recurring nightmare or the warm orangey-brown of the nearby woods are highlights. There is so much Konyu is able to accomplish with shading as well.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I feel the art style itself doesn’t allow for much variety in characters’ facial expressions, and we lean on the dialogue to convey more subtle emotional changes.
There is one piece of information that is part of the mystery that is deliberately withheld from the reader, and it seems as though it should have been presented sooner in the narrative. This felt contrived and inauthentic when it happened, but it did only happen the one time.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
This is an excellent graphic novel, debut or otherwise. It’s a fun story to try and work out the mystery of the disappearance and reappearance of Lucas Jones. It helps that there is a very satisfying resolution to the mystery. There’s also another layer to the story of Lucas Jones. It’s difficult to discuss that part without revealing too much.
It’s a story about the interconnectedness of grief and memory. It’s a story about holding on, to the past, to the familiar, to those things that make you feel like you’re home.
Although there are some heavier issues of grief and loss, I think this is a graphic novel both older children and adults will equally enjoy.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All The Junction characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Norm Konyu or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED