Screen-Shot-2014-12-28-at-3.02.29-PMThe year is 1998. In Major League Baseball, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are beginning their race to break the long-standing home run record, Bill Clinton is being questioned about a girl named Monica, and in rural Vermont, senior, Carl Carter, is leading the Elizabeth Monarchs to the state baseball championship.

Carl has got it made: he has a full scholarship to the University of Maine to play baseball and maybe, after he finishes there, he’ll go pro. The only thing standing in his way is graduation and that should be a piece of cake, since he’s got his best bud, Esden Hubbard, to help him make it through. But it all comes crashing down the night Carl makes a terrible mistake. Suddenly everything—baseball, graduation, and even his friendship—is in jeopardy.

I struggled to review this book, even at the heart of its story: an entitled student athlete whose actions have real consequences.  On the one hand, Carl’s fall from grace and its repercussions leave readers unsettled, forcing them to ask questions about themselves and the choices they would make in a similar situation. However, it seems that Lonergan isn’t sure whether he’s telling a semi-autobiographical tale about the time period of his youth or a coming-of-age story with universal appeal, and that’s a problem for me.

In interviews, Lonergan notes that he grew up in the 1990s, which makes it easier for him to write about the time period. Given the story’s sports-themed content, I think he was also trying to make a point about Sosa and McGwire’s home run race, but he never really gives any context for the reader. Since that time, both players have dropped out of the public eye, so the reader would have to be familiar with them already or look them up, which seems like a lot of work to try to figure out the author’s intent. Without any clear reasoning for the specific setting of 1998 or the references to dated events, it left me feeling off-kilter and pulled me out of the story.

There are aspects of Lonergan’s artistic style that I like, including clean, simple lines and the movement of the characters as they play baseball. However, I struggled with the way some of the characters were drawn and his style is not always conducive to clear storytelling, particularly in the silent panels. For example, when Carl sidles up to Chelsea Hubbard, he appears to be asking a question—but since we do not know her character yet, we have no idea what he might be asking her or whether the interaction is important. There are also some places where the spot blacks are uneven, especially Esden’s eyebrows, which look strangely like a second set of mutated eyes. Altogether, the drawings feel rushed in many places, distracting from the story instead of enhancing it.

Given the issues I have with this book, I would have a hard time recommending it to readers. Fans of baseball will likely enjoy All Star despite its flaws, though I found them to overwhelm the positive aspects of the story.

All Star
by Jesse Lonergan
ISBN: 9781561638352
NBM/Comicslit, 2014

  • Dani Shuping

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Dani Shuping is currently a wandering librarian looking for a home. She has been involved in libraries for over nine years and and has had an interest in graphic novels since before that time. Dani began the graphic novel collection at Mercer, works with an English professor from time to time on a class on graphic novels, and just recently started a graphic novel book discussion group. She love attendings comic conventions, especially the smaller ones when they can, and one day may just have a comic of their own. Dani can be found at ashuping.net and goes by the user name ashuping where ever they can, such as on Twitter: @ashuping.

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