I honestly can say that I never thought I would find a comic (graphic novel? whatever) that felt so close to my own life. Nate Powell‘s book, Please Release, is a collection of four stories created between 2002 and 2005 in Arkansas, Rhode Island, Florida and Indiana.
The first story, The Phantom Form, was captivating to me. You become aware of his job (direct support for adults with developmental disabilities) and his politics (radical) immediately. He speaks very eloquently about “debasing power dynamics” in his work, and lack of privacy as well as trust with the adults he works with. There is a wistful cast to the whole book, and the pages seem very much alive with various music lyrics that flow through the panels.
Punk romanticism and the sentimentality of a transient lifestyle are captured, as well as an intense melancholy. Powell illustrates his interactions with adults with developmental disabilities with honesty, respect, and subtlety that I don’t think I’ve ever seem before, especially in comic form. In the third story, Work At It, there are almost two pages depicting Powell and a man that he works with staring at each other while they’re taking a walk. One panel depicts the two men as muscle and bones, two humans with the same structure looking at each other, and then they are shown back in their clothes, back in the dynamic of care provider and incompetent person.
Full disclosure- I work as an art instructor for adults with developmental and cognitive disabilities who are Deaf or Deaf and blind. This could be a large reason why I devoured this book and promptly ordered his previous work on Amazon. But I firmly believe that the stories are honest and lyrical in a way that isn’t hokey, and that Powell has an intense understanding of his craft, the illustrations, flow, and dialogue in the book are fantastic.