Night Fisher

Lauded illustrator R. Kikuo Johnson's potent, career-making debut, Night Fisher--which won the prestigious Russ Manning Newcomer Award at the 2006 Eisner Awards--returns in a handsome hardcover edition. Originally published in 2005, Night Fisher was Johnson's antidote to Hollywood's Hawaii, "the backdrop for countless films and novels, but the place they depicted was never one [he] recognized," his author's note reveals. In capturing the (mis)adventures of two best friends, private school seniors, on the verge of young adulthood, Johnson's stated intention was to "honor Maui by showing it truthfully."

Loren moved from Boston to Maui six years earlier with his dentist father into a "dream house," despite the intractable lawn that's become the "blight" of the neighborhood. He's been best friends with Shane ever since, except for the blip in seventh grade when Shane tried smoking pot for the first time and didn't invite Loren along. Loren's "Boy Scout phase" at that time hasn't really changed and, as usual, he's still "playing catch up" to Shane's shenanigans. These days, though, Shane (and his cronies) are involved in harder, more dangerous pursuits. Reluctant he may be, but Loren won't get left behind again.

Johnson, who declined a 10th anniversary edition because he could "only see its faults," agreed to this reissue with enough retouches, redrawing, dialogue-refining improvements to satisfy his "nagging perfectionism." The rewarding result showcases his never-static, black-and-white panels filled with both motion and emotion. In addition to compelling coming-of-age challenges, Johnson also exposes environmental destruction, colonial invasion, widespread drug abuse and entitlement. Narratively and visually, Johnson definitively underscores his initial well-earned success. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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