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Long Road to Liquor City by Macon Blair (Joe Flood, illus.)

Published by Oni Press on February 19, 2019

Liquor City is a legend, a place of which hobos can only dream. Until, that is, a legendary hobo bequeaths a map to Jed and Nathaniel. They follow the map as best they can, although they aren’t much for map reading. And while even other hobos tell him there’s no such place as Liquor City, Jed has faith. Without faith, Jed says, he has nothing. On the other hand, a woman tells Nathaniel that where you’re heading might not be as important as where you are. The differences between those two points of view drive the amusing but surprisingly serious story told in this graphic novel.

Jed and Nathaniel take an American journey, the kind of journey Mark Twain might have imagined, populated by fools and the scoundrels who fool them. Chased by a railroad guard who holds them responsible for his wife’s death, the hobos make their way to a tent revival and then to a hobo jungle where transgressions are punished by fighting a rooster to the death. (The king of the hobo jungle is thinking of franchising.) They search the swamp for a woman who knows ancient secrets (map reading perhaps being among them) and encounter a human trafficker of circus freaks.

The story is fanciful but entertaining. Nathaniel might prefer a less dangerous journey to New York (he has heard tales of hot dogs on every corner in this magical land) but Jed has been there and the residents are too strange for him — unlike the hobos and circus freaks with whom he travels.

Long Road to Liquor City blends action and laughs, all suitably rendered in an artistic style that straddles the line between cartoonish and noir-inspired realism. While the story features a variety of offbeat characters, it finds its heart in Jed and Nathaniel. The journey tests both their endurance and their bond of friendship. Whether Jed and Nathaniel will overcome their philosophical differences is the question that readers will ponder between chuckles.


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