The realm of indie comics is a strange one, and one that brings forth all manner of odd creations. The once-serial-webcomic-now-graphic-novel Rice Boy, by Evan Dahm, is definitely on the odder side of such works. Rice Boy, which one could describe as a surrealist fantasy-adenture story, follows the journeys of, well, Rice Boy.
Rice Boy is the little guy shown above. He has no arms or legs, but that doesn’t seem to inhibit him in any way. He lives in a hut in the Matchstick Forest, drinks tea, grows plants, watches sunsets, and mostly keeps to himself. That is, until a mysterious figure by the name of The One Electronic (T-O-E) arrives, claiming to be on a mission from god, a mission to find the Fulfiller of a great and ancient prophecy.
T-O-E is one of the seldom seen machine men. He is also quite definitely very cool — he’s got an awesome purple trench coat, very powerful noir vibes, and a really fascinating character design (his face changes in every frame, displaying small portions of various monochrome images). He’s also tired. Very tired. T-O-E delivers some choice exposition, and then suggests that Rice Boy may in fact be the Fulfiller.
Now if you’re familiar with the fantasy genre, this might all seem rather predictable and tropey to you — and that’s the point. Rice Boy is very aware of its identity as a fantasy story (Rice Boy is literally the boy on farm, it’s in his name), and it does not shy away from engaging with and critiquing its genre in some very interesting ways. I wish to avoid spoilers, so I’ll let you discover that on your own. Anyways, after some initial reluctance and refusals of his quest, Rice Boy decides to set out to discover the truth of the prophecy. He leaves his small little home in the Matchwoods, and sets out into the unknown. As one might expect in a fantasy story, adventure ensues.
As I said earlier, Rice Boy is a surrealist story. The novel very clearly feels little need to explain itself, or adhere to logic and/or plausibility. All sorts of outlandish and random things just kind of happen. In many ways, this could be considered a bad thing, but in Rice Boy it just works. Dahm’s functional and simple line work, coupled with his bright color choices, really complement this style of storytelling: the world of Rice Boy seems bizarre and alien, but Dahm’s precise composition implies a certain kind of order — an order that we just can’t quite comprehend. Everything within Rice Boy is strange, but none of it feels arbitrary. It also must be said that Rice Boy, like all of Dahm’s comics, contains no humans. The world of Rice Boy is populated purely by invented creatures, which only adds to its disorienting and alien feel.
So, if you’re looking for a whimsical and twisted journey through an unfamiliar world, a refreshing take on the fantasy genre, or just really like tiny little guys, maybe check out Rice Boy? Really, I could say all sorts of things about it, but it’s just good. Evan Dahm’s comics always manage to make you feel something — Rice Boy is filled with equal parts wonder and terrible sadness. We have a copy in the mill, so check it out! You can also read it online for free at http://rice-boy.com/rb/index.php?c=001.