by Nate Powell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Format: Hardcover, black and white, $14.95
Reviewed by: Publishers Weekly
Indy comic artist Powell, an Eisner-nominee, works full time with adults with developmental disabilities, which may have been an inspiration for Swallow Me Whole, a stand-alone graphic novel about two teenage stepsiblings with psychological problems. Ruth suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and thinks she can hear insects speak, making it difficult for her to walk across grassy lawns but landing her a sweet internship in the natural history museum. Perry sometimes sees a tiny wizard who speaks to him about his destiny, which would be cute if this were a fantasy comic; instead, it's sadly tragic since Perry recognizes the wizard as nothing more than a troublesome hallucination. It should be obvious from the start that things will not end well. Dark inks and elongated whispering word balloons carry us into Ruth's world of voices and missing time, while experimental paneling masterfully conveys the characters' inner worlds and altered states. Powell's ultimate message remains unclear: is this a cautionary tale reminding ill teens to take their medication(s)? Or should we take a hopeful message away from Ruth's tragic story, knowing that one need not give in completely to one's delusions?