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This is an odd little comic book by Daniel Clowes, who also wrote Ghost World. It is told as a series of strips focusing on various different characters in a small, cold town called Ice Haven. Like his better-known work, it has a subdued tone; the whole thing comes across as a portrait and expression of quiet desperation. A kid disappears, and everyone's very upset about it, but at least they have something to talk about.

The art is well-rendered, simple and effective. Each segment shifts into a different visual style, as if we were reading through a Sunday cartoon supplement; the corresponding shifts in the the narrative style are often much more striking. This can be mildly disorienting, which makes a lot of sense given the general air of confusion pervading the book - none of the characters seem to have very much idea what's going on at any point. Mostly they just sort of bumble along, occasionally doing understatedly dramatic things to one another, often without really meaning to.

Almost the first strip in the book features 'Harry Naybors, Comic Book Critic' holding forth on the nature of comics, in a pretentious but not entirely vacuous fashion. He re-appears in another strip later, when the private investigator comes calling, and again at the end, in 'Harry Naybors Explains Everything'. Here, he monologues on the significance of various motifs in the book he has just appeared in, before narrating an 'About the Author' section. It's all very self-consciously postmodern, and obviously says something about the author's own preoccupation with the medium of comics, and his desire to experiment with it. It makes me feel a bit self-conscious writing about it, too. I expect he'd like that.

Ice Haven was published by Jonathan Cape, Random House, in 2005. Some of it first appeared in Eightball #22. It is 90 pages long.

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