“My life was over the day I ran away.” The Only Living Boy by David Gallaher is a jam-packed adventure. Featuring a heartbreaking story-arc and astounding visuals by Steve Ellis, the story races by at breakneck speed. With its fantastical setting and intriguing cast of characters, The Only Living Boy is perfect for any tween reader in search of an epic tale.
The story begins when Erik, a boy of twelve who lives in New York City, wakes up under a rock in a strange world with only a stuffed bear backpack as a companion. The last thing he remembers is running away and hiding. From what? He doesn’t know. Erik’s story is wrapped in an even larger arc that culminates in an epic battle. He is the only remaining human in what was once a thriving city. Along the way, he picks up a ragtag team of friends, including Morgan, a green-hued Mermidian; Thea, a Sectaurian princess; and Kleef, a warrior. They are all united in their desire to end the reign of Baalikar, a demonic creature created by Doctor Once. The Baalikar threatens to destroy Chimerika—a piece of land that looks suspiciously like Manhattan—and kill as many of its citizens as possible. In the middle of all this madness, Erik slowly begins to regain his memories thanks to some meddling by the Mermidian scientists and Doctor Once.
The Only Living Boy is a good graphic novel for serious young readers. The writing is advanced and somewhat dry with little humor. For this kind of epic story, it can get a little tiresome to piece together the wooden dialogue. The characters are well-written for the most part, but some are more sympathetic than others and it can be hard to really feel for them when they are in dire straits.
This comic is visually outstanding. Every panel is bright and colorful. Chimerika feels vast because there are so many different scapes depicted—land, sea, and air. Each new setting has its own color scheme: lush green for the wild forest, dark purples and browns for the dreary prisons, fiery reds and yellows for the final battle scene with Baalikar. It is easy to be swept away in the illustrations. This story is essentially about a long journey and the illustrations add necessary complexity and enormity to The Only Living Boy.
Readers want to see themselves in the characters, and they want those characters to perform feats of cunning, strength, and bravery. David Gallaher and Steve Ellis have created a story that delivers for that upper middle grade audience. It is most appropriate for readers ages 12 and up. There is violence, but it is minimal and not gratuitous. Hand to readers who enjoy Amulet by Kazu Kibiushi, The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brailler, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson graphic adaptations.
The Only Living Boy Omnibus
By David Gallaher
Art by Steve Ellis
Publisher Age Rating: 12+