R. Kikuo Johnson
Loren Foster and his dad can’t get their lawn under control. The weeds grow waist high in places. Thorns prick anyone stupid enough to walk barefoot through it. The plants are taking over. In R. Kikuo Johnson’s debut graphic novel, Night Fisher, these plants are a metaphor for something, but it’s just never quite clear what. But in comics—a medium still wrestling with its literary devices—you take any metaphor you can get.
Night Fisher takes place in Hawaii and follows one high-school senior, Loren, through various experimentations with girls and, more often, drugs. Loren, like the non-native foliage Johnson draws with pedantic detail, is a transplanted Pacific Islander. His father, an unfulfilled dentist, dragged him to Hawaii in the sixth grade, and now, much like the yard, Loren is ready to go wild.
Lacking in plot, Night Fisher feels more like a rumination than a story, but Johnson’s dynamic artwork holds your interest. Even in black and white, the pencils capture the lush vegetation of Hawaii, along with the blight of increasing construction. A student of David Mazzucchelli, the legendary collaborator with Frank Miller on Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One and creator of Rubber Blanket magazine, Johnson borrows much of his teacher’s muted, simple realism, and it serves him well here. Those plants look great—whatever they mean.