blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Tale of One Bad Rat (1994-95)


I read The Tale of One Bad Rat in one sitting. It was originally published as a limited series, but it’s in three parts and the first part is too long for an issue so it didn’t seem like a natural stopping point. Talbot weighs the book uniquely, with the first act taking far longer than the second two. In some ways, it’s in two acts, with the second and third parts comprising the second act.

It’s not something I’d traditionally read in one sitting–it’s very serious and very depressing and the first part–and most of the second part–seem like they could easy end very badly for the protagonist. But without a good stopping place, I found it impossible to pause.

In the collected edition, Talbot talks a lot about the creative history behind One Bad Rat, but I only skimmed that essay. I’m not really sure if I want to know the source of the story. It’s both heartbreaking and glorious, with Talbot producing a work far more significant than the more popularly lauded comic books (those with mainstream success).

Much like Bruce Springsteen’s 9/11 album, “The Rising,” Talbot’s in the precarious position where he cannot fail. He can’t make any mistakes or his book becomes cheap and exploitative.

And he doesn’t fail. He succeeds. And The Tale of One Bad Rat is an incredibly good, incredibly unpleasant graphic novel.

Talbot’s artwork is wonderful, the photorealistic faces (not scenery) encompassing the beautiful with the horrific.

One response to “The Tale of One Bad Rat (1994-95)”

  1. Good point about the two acts that comprise this story. It gets so scary for the protagonist that you’re pretty much swept into the second half, unable to stop to find out how our heroine ends up. Essential reading, and a social point to boot. The perfect graphic album, although the subject matter gives it grit, the experience is one everyone in comics should visit. The essays aren’t downers, though, they follow Talbot’s journey developing this theme, where he proves your point about “getting it right”‘, as there’s no leeway to get it otherwise. Good review!

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