“Life is made up of funny random moments.” For David, a twenty-five-year-old aspiring comic book artist, these words from his father resonate deeply. Serendipitous encounters, metaphysical musings, and difficult situations shuffle through the course of David’s life in Joshua Ross’s debut graphic novel Left Turns.
The story begins in a nebulous void as David gazes toward the night sky and philosophizes upon the origin and existence of the universe in light of eternity. He is jolted from his reverie by his girlfriend’s sudden announcement, “David, I think we should break up.” Cut to the next scene and he is carrying boxes into an empty apartment with his younger brother Ben following behind. After settling in, their father treats them to dinner as David reflects on and charts out the next chapter of his life. Random moments materialize in this introspective journey of solitude as characters drift into and out of his life: Jan, his co-worker at a comic book shop, invites him to a dance party at a club where he meets a new love interest. Katie McPherson, his childhood best friend and first crush, drops into town to attend her sister’s wedding. Then there’s Rebecca—his girlfriend and “accidental muse”—a source of inspiration for his artistic creativity who rekindles the flames of passion they once shared. These unexpected encounters shape and impact the trajectory of his life as he struggles to carve out a career as a comic book artist.
Fluid dialogue fuels the narrative momentum in this slice of life story that chronicles the meandering turns of David’s life, while characters intermittently drop in and influence his decisions. Dynamic interactions, instant messages, and intimate conversations punctuated by flashbacks connect the past to the present, marching to a rhythm of life infused with raw energy. Reminiscent of the minimalist style of Raymond Carver’s stories, Ross’s flawed characters unpack their emotional baggage with heartfelt warmth and authenticity. Flashbacks tinted in light chocolate brown tones, occasionally rendered through wordless panels, unfold methodically through the characters’ nuanced interactions and emotions. Conversations and narrative action depicted by expressive line drawings in soft cyan blue-shaded panels blend seamlessly to advance the plot. Speculative discussions highlighting the significance of art and artists and the inevitability of failures and successes—prompted by personal decisions in one’s life—transform Left Turns into an engrossing graphic novel that explores the oftentimes messy complications and wonders of life.
From working in comic book shops and partying at late night soirees to sketching artwork in the privacy of his home and showcasing his work at a comic book convention, David maneuvers through the ever-shifting landscape and vicissitudes of life. A fine addition for adult graphic novel collections, Left Turns delivers an entertaining and profound journey through soulful explorations of an aspiring artist, unraveling a multiplicity of twists and turns that accompany him on the road to achieving his creative ventures.
By Joshua Ross
Source Point Press, 2023
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)