Kill My Mother
by Jules Feiffer (2014)
Our story begins with Annie, an out-of-control teenager in the 1930s, who dreams of offing her mother, Elsie, whom she blames for abandoning her for a job soon after her husband, a cop, is shot and killed.
Now, employed by a perpetually soused private eye, Elsie finds herself covering up his missteps as she is drawn into a case of a mysterious client, who leads her into a decade-long drama of deception and dual identities sprawling from the Depression era to World War II Hollywood and the jungles of the South Pacific.
Graphic Novel Review
Did you read that cover blurb? No? I’ll wait…
Okay. That’s more than you’ll understand from actually reading Kill My Mother.
The story is a confusing, nonsensical mess. Kill My Mother takes every noir element imaginable, knots them together into an incomprehensible jumble, and keeps going for 150 pages.
Poor character design means that it’s nearly impossible to tell the characters apart, especially the three tall, leggy blonde femme fatales. For most of the book, I had no idea who was doing what to whom, which quickly led to a case of not caring what happened to any of them.
One positive thing I will say for the artwork: Feiffer has a gift for conveying movement. Boxers dance across the page, and tense standoffs explode into violence. I’ve seen few illustrators that manage to convey such a dynamic sense of motion. If I could follow the story well enough to understand what was happening, it might have been enough to save the book.
Despite its abundance of noir atmosphere, Kill My Mother never delivers a satisfying mystery. People are murdered, and secrets are revealed. But the murder I was most invested in was never dealt with again. (That I could tell. Events were so jumbled by the end that maybe I missed it altogether.) The twist that seemed to be the big reveal was tied to a murder I’d never wondered about. I’d already been shown the culprit, and felt no need to puzzle out the why of it.
I do NOT recommend Kill My Mother unless:
* You love artsy impressionistic illustrations with a strong sense of movement.
* You have a high tolerance for confusing plots and unlikeable characters.
* You adore all things noir, no matter how those elements are used.
Read for the 2015 Eisner challenge
2015 Eisner Nominee: Best Graphic Album