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‘Trick Pony’ OGN (review)

Written by Greg Lockard
Art by Anna David 
Edited by Will Dennis
Published by comiXology Originals

 

I haven’t read anything quite like Trick Pony – if not ever, then definitely not in a long, long time.

What else can I say about a graphic novel that combines the American West, gay teen romance, dreams, flashbacks and magical realism to depict a hard-living man at a crossroads in his life?

Jimmy, a professional stunt horse rider near the end of his career on the dwindling rodeo circuit, travels to the family ranch after receiving word that his father is ill. As Jimmy heads home, the story digs into why he left and whom he left behind.

But is this our world as we know it, or is this someplace else?

Anna David’s art unsettles the reader early into the story. As Jimmy gives and interview to a reporter, a wide panel depicts what appears to be the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz. When Jimmy parties with the alluring showgirl Biz Bilmore (maybe a drag queen?), she reappears as a mermaid and they swim in the giant fish tank at the nightclub jimmy attends after the story’s opening rodeo.

Lockard and David shift the storytelling from the book’s objective reality – whatever that may be – into a dreamland featuring a talking desert coyote, a tin man who may also be the Green Knight of Arthurian legends, and more. Are these memories, dreams, or even post-concussion hallucinations?

Either way, I was left unmoored for a time before my mind clicked into place about what kind of story I was reading.

David’s art hovers in that anime-influenced space that a lot of contemporary digital illustrators employ. The sketch quality of her work allows for some fluid moments, particularly of Jimmy on horseback. However, the overall lack of detail on characters and backgrounds added to my confusion at times. There’s a lot of potential, and I want more, especially given the sophistication of Lockard’s story and storytelling.

Folks far more equipped than I can dig into the tradition of queerness intersecting with Western themes. (Look at the masked South African musician Orville Peck as the most recent example.) But from Jimmy’s Nudie suits and his heterochromic eyes (one blue, one brown) recalling David Bowie, to the Wizard of Oz references, the book exudes a comfortable queer main text and subtext.

And at the center of that storytelling is Jimmy’s first love, a fellow stunt rider named Zeke, and the circumstances that drove them apart. Refreshingly, and maybe a bit spoiler-y, those reasons for their split go far beyond anything typical around queer romance as depicted in a lot of dramas. No tragedy or closets, here. From the cover to the first few pages, it’s clear Jimmy lives openly and it’s not a thing.

Overall, I enjoyed how this book messes with time and Jimmy’s waking reveries as memory, regrets and revelations slide and collide. Calling a queering of memory, as something beyond the past-present-future linear model.

And while we may not get the reunion or resolution you’d expect in a Hollywood romance, Trick Pony comes out the other side of Jimmy and Zeke’s doomed teen love into something warmer, more mature: acceptance of one’s choices, while never forgetting the exhilaration of racing toward the sunset.

Grade: B

 

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