by Anthony Cleveland
Foreigners. Drugs. Government secrets. A podcast host obsessed with UFOs, armed with guns. Imminent planetary condemnation. When you stack elements of Anthony Cleveland and Antonio Fuso Stargazer, seem to be the hot topics of a subreddit of conspiracy theory. In fact, the same all-encompassing energy that feeds those corners of the Internet grows even through the opening pages of the graphic novel. In one example, a crowd of children are enjoying a night out, in the next, BBRRRUUM, giant letters cover the scene and friends are transported to a water tower. Moments later, Kenny, the youngest of the group, fell out of the structure after literally reaching for the stars. Others aren’t sure what happened, but Kenny firmly insists that the “people of heaven” took him. To the horror of his friends and family, Kenny’s infatuation with the alligators becomes manic. It’s never the same.
It’s been 20 years, and Kenny is once again the subject of the group’s attention. This time, though, it’s gone. His sister Shae gathers friends in a quest to find him, embarking on a journey that ping pongs the characters between confrontations with the U.S. government, an extraterrestrial life force, and the most painful events of his past. Stargazer it’s two sci-fi parts and a horror-part with a touch of mystery sprinkled on it. Cleveland’s narrative moves with vigor, and Fuso’s vivid illustrations, in noir style, correspond to the tenacity of the story at every turn. Stargazer it’s a quick read, but it’s also a slow read. As a computer trying to transform a large file, I spent the days after I finished the book reflecting on every point of the plot. In the end, though, I kept coming back to the first thing I felt when I finished it: a complete bewilderment. –Paul Sarconi