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‘Mary Tyler MooreHawk’ GN (review)

Written and Illustrated by Dave Baker
Published by Top Shelf Productions


Stepping into the realm of Mary Tyler MooreHawk is akin to venturing into a kaleidoscopic dreamscape where comic book artistry collides with avant-garde storytelling, conjuring a narrative so distinctive that it defies traditional categorization.

Created by the acclaimed Dave Baker, this graphic novel emerges as a genre-defying expedition, blending elements of adventure, detective fiction, and a critique of modern fandom into a singular, mesmerizing experience that captivates and bewilders in equal measure. Baker’s work is so crammed with thoughts and ideas that it sometimes becomes unwieldy.

An example of this is the numerous notes scribbled along the header and footer of each page that explain the actions or history of what’s going on in the panels with impossible detail.

Another example is the prose written sections that explore Mary Tyler MooreHawk as a fictional and beloved TV show,

At its core, Mary Tyler MooreHawk unravels across two intertwined narratives: one, an energetic adventure featuring a teenage superhero navigating through a bubblegum-pink universe teeming with danger and mystery, and the other, a dystopian tale set in a future where entertainment and reality blur, encapsulated through articles from the enigmatic magazine Physicalist Today.

This dual narrative structure challenges the reader to navigate between the comic’s vibrant escapades and the thought-provoking prose, creating an intellectually stimulating reading experience that is visually arresting but, at times, extremely dense and difficult to absorb.

Mary Tyler MooreHawk is a teenage superhero and supersleuth who falls somewhere between Johnny Quest, Mary Tyler Moore, and Batgirl. These comic chapters were delightfully fun and incredibly heartfelt but ultimately extremely confusing, thanks to the level of detail Baker crams into each panel and notes that can be found in the headers and footers of nearly every page.

Baker’s approach to storytelling is audacious, melding comic sequences with prose to forge a narrative that entertains and invites introspection on the nature of storytelling, fandom, and the dichotomy between creator and creation. The artwork, predominantly cast in shades of pink and white, adds a layer of surrealism to the narrative, transforming traditional comic book aesthetics into a bold statement on visual narrative. The comic portion of Mary Tyler MooreHawk is a haze of bubblegum pink, and I mean that in the best way possible. The comics are shades of pink and white – completely pink and white. Imagine black and white newspaper cartoons, but make them pink and white. Should this work? Even after reading the book, I’m uncertain if Baker’s coloring choice works despite its boldness. I found the pink and white coloring a bold choice, but there were times in the book when so much was happening on the panel that the monochromatic color scheme made it difficult to follow the action.

Meanwhile, the prose sections delve deep into a speculative future, exploring themes of corporatism, entertainment, and the essence of physicality in an increasingly digital world.

There are two Dave Bakers in Mary Tyler MooreHawk—Dave Baker, the journalist, and Dave Baker, the artist. Mary Tyler MooreHawk is a story about these two Dave Bakers and their connection to the titular cult-classic television show. Chapters of the Mary Tyler MooreHawk comic alternate between articles from a mysterious magazine, Physicalist Today. These alternating sections combine to create a dystopian world with two Dave Bakers and one fictional teenage superhero.

Yet, it is not merely the novel’s structure and aesthetic that captivates; Baker’s narrative ambitiously interrogates the fabric of pop culture itself, weaving a complex tapestry that reflects on storytelling’s creation, consumption, and cultural impact. The inclusion of Baker as a character within his narrative adds a layer of meta-commentary, blurring the lines between reality and fiction in a way that is both clever and disorienting.

Mary Tyler MooreHawk is a testament to Baker’s prowess as a storyteller and an artist, showcasing his ability to craft a work that is both a homage to and a critique of the comic book medium. It resonates with the spirit of works like Infinite Jest and House of Leaves, employing a non-linear narrative and footnotes to create a richly layered story that demands and rewards the reader’s engagement.

Upon my initial reading of Mary Tyler MooreHawk, I was taken aback by all of the wild experimental pieces, from the art to the prose, and I was honestly overwhelmed. However, after allowing the book to digest, I understood that this graphic novel is not just a traditional comic book adventure but a philosophical inquiry, a visual feast, and a narrative labyrinth inviting exploration. It challenges readers to question the boundaries between fiction and reality, the role of the creator, and the impact of stories on our understanding of the world.

Baker’s Mary Tyler MooreHawk is a bold, ambitious work that defies easy categorization, offering a unique and unforgettable reading experience that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

Final Score: 4 out of 5




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