Review: Palefire, Written by MK Reed, Illustrated by Farel

In my quest to wrap up my 2015 reading I’ve been
thinking about a book I received from Secret Acres earlier this year. On paper,
Palefire seems like a no-brainer. It’s a collaboration between MK Reed, a talented comics writer whose work I’ve seen (if not read), and Farel
Dalrymple right after completing 2014’s The
, a book that I really enjoyed.

 Palefire is 68
pages of perfect bound black and white comics about Alison, a teenager who is attracted to
Darren, her high school’s hothead and a firebug. The rest of the guys who seem
to like Allison are either potheads or jerks, and Darren seems to have
something about him that makes him stand out from the crowd. But after a party
goes south at a friend’s house, Alison gets more than she’s expecting from
Darren, and nearly gets burned up in the process.

Palefire is
classic Americana, and focuses on well-worn high school tropes; the sensitive
bad boy, the girl who is playing with fire but thinks she knows what she’s
doing, the “nice guy” who can never get the girl. These stereotypes are played
out to their natural conclusions in Palefire.
The book doesn’t necessarily have a nice tidy ending, a fact I enjoyed. But the book exists
as an examination of those classic stereotypes and does not transcend them. Because of the setting and the set up for the characters, Palefire is a comic that feels like it should be a 90’s romcom, but is suspiciously short on both romance and
comedy. I liked some of Reed’s dialogue, which had a great flow, and I like
that the characters don’t get a free pass to a fairytale ending. But Reed’s
script is beleaguered by its cast.

Outside of this comic, Dalrymple’s work is routinely focused
on the psychedelic and surreal; Dalrymple has a knack for that content, which
is why The Wrenchies and It Will All Hurt feel so strong. But
with Palefire, Dalrymple mostly stays on the straight and narrow. Clearly Dalrymple is a good draftsman, but his characters in Palefire are wooden and lifeless against the backdrop of a
summer night. 

Ultimately, Palefire doesn’t
have the spark of an artistic collaboration that is on the same wavelength.
Dalrymple and Reed feel disconnected,

and the illustration doesn’t sync up with the emotion of the story. That shows itself in the final work.
While some individual elements of the comic are well done, the book as a whole
misses the mark.

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