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The Castaways    by Rob Vollmar & Pablo G. Callejo order for
by Rob Vollmar
Order:  USA  Can
ComicsLit, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

After his aunt sends him packing with no more than a few dollars, young Tucker Freeman hops onto the nearest train to travel across the United States, hoping to find the father who left his mother, himself and his siblings several years before. Stowing away on the train, he manages to elude the guards, and sets out on a coming-of-age journey into a world of beggars and migrants.

Shortly into his adventure, Tucker meets elderly Elijiah Hopkins, a black tramp who's been traveling the trains for decades. Elijiah acts as Tucker's mentor, introducing him to the world of hobos, tramps and bums, and showing him the tricks of the trade. Elijah introduces Tucker to the Hobo's Jungle, an informal gathering of wandering homeless people who live a bohemian-type lifestyle. But when fellow tramps disagree about a young white thirteen-year-old keeping company with an elderly black man, the two must defend themselves. Escaping and finding their way back onto the railways, they continue their adventure, avoiding the train guards and learning from one another.

As in their previous series, The Bluesman, Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo deliver an engaging tale that is both challenging and historically relevant, often grappling with issues of racism and poverty. Their black on gray art provides a great mood and depth, with the shade and light in the story taking on a new feeling. While their depiction of young people's faces is decent, their facial sketches of older folk are inspiring. The etched lines of lives lived reveal deep and distinct histories of individual characters in just a single panel. Their art reaches out to readers in a compelling manner and while the story is brief, the depth and skill of the art is dynamic and appealing.

Vollmar and Callejo grapple with race in a manner that few authors and artists match. While not as substantial as Bluesman, The Castaways still exposes stark tensions of race and historical ramifications in a way that causes readers to reflect upon their own understanding of these issues. The graphic novel proves to be more than entertaining; it becomes a piece of literature. NBM publishes some of the best in graphic novel literature and The Castaways adds to a growing library of impressive pieces. Vollmar and Callejo prove a talented pair whose works will continue to challenge readers.

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