By Alex Robinson
Released in 2005, Alex Robinson’s Tricked won both the Harvey and the Ingnatz award for graphic novel of the year. Unfortunately for me, I was too wrapped up in my own interests and superhero reading habits to notice this book. Luckily for me, the book has been re-released by Top Shelf so even people slow to the game (like me) have an opportunity to “discover” this book.
I’m actually pretty slow to the Alex Robinson experience. My first Alex Robinson book was 2008’s Too Cool To Be Forgotten. It was a fun yarn that kept me occupied and pushed the visual envelope of storytelling. So, when I saw that he had a “new” book coming out, I had to pick it up.
Tricked follows “a waitress, washed up rock star, an office temp, a counterfeiter, a high school girl and an obsessed fan” as their lives are slowly drawn together. Some of the connections are made quickly (the rock-star and the office temp), while some of the others take a little while to figure out how they will be brought in to play (the counterfeiter). The relaxed pacing gives Robinson a chance to develop each character individually instead of immediately trying to place them in the larger picture. None of the characters feel weak or poorly thought out. Each character has a definite reason for being in the story, even if it is not immediately apparent.
Even though the pacing is relaxed (the book weighs in at a hefty 350 pages), the tension incrementally increases through Robinson’s use of chapter numbering. The book starts with chapter 49 and steadily counts down to some unknown confluence of characters and events. Subconsciously, the reader knows that the book is building to something important and life shattering. But even when the moment is reached, Robinson manages to twist it so that it is a surprise to both the characters and the reader.
As the title implies, each of the characters is either the victim or the perpetrator of some sort of deception; in many cases characters are both. What Robinson avoids, however, is any type of blame associated with these deceptions. Instead, he gives each character a real reason for his or her trickery:
Caprice: The Waitress. Lying to the nice guy because she is so used to being treated like crap, she figures it is best to dump him before she gets hurt.
Ray: The Rock Star. Lying to everyone, including himself, that his life and career are somehow headed somewhere.
Lily: The Temp. Her day starts with counterfeiting and ends up with her living a life that is full of fake names, and double crosses.
Nick: The Counterfeiter. Lying to his wife, his boss, and his clients. He’s so caught up in the lies, he starts lying to himself that he can get away with it all.
Phoebe: The High School Girl. Lying to her mother abut going to visit cousins while she is on a cross-country trip in search of some answers about her past.
Steve: The Obsessed Fan. Listening to the voice in his head that is feeding him lies.
Even the supporting characters are both driven and defined by the lies they tell or have told. In the end, the reader is left with the feeling that everyone on the planet is a liar.
But then again, who among us has not perpetrated some ruse or another, believing it was the right thing to do at the time?
Tricked is a fantastic read that is difficult to put down. Several times I walked away, only to find myself making excuses to go back to the book. Instead of spiraling out of control and in to a place of despair and hopelessness, Tricked ends with a renewed sense of faith. It is well worth lying to your boss so you can take an afternoon off to head to your LCS to find a copy for yourself!