GARY: BOOK THREE / by Vik Gill

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Gary: Book Three is the final book in a trilogy and this review explores the material in that context, including what could be considered mild spoilers for someone completely unfamiliar with the work. In order to fully appreciate this analysis, we would suggest you read Vik's previous reviews of Gary: Book One and Gary: Book Two. The prospective reader of Tyrell Cannon’s Gary: Book Three is one who has gone through the first two books and decided that the cycle should be seen to its end. There is little that the book needs to do to ensure these readers’ interest. There is little that the book is able to do to compel new readers to read it.

Why, then, has Cannon taken the trouble to compose such a captivating cover illustration?

gary front cover

The sepia tone is certainly the most attractive thing about this image; it softens the strong, clean lines characteristic of Cannon’s style. It also affects a sense of age, and by extension, authenticity. Gary does look more real here compared to the covers of the other two books: look at the details on his collar, the subtle shadowing on his face.

The book will feature moments from early in Gary’s life, that aspect of the front cover is very clear.

When turned over, there’s a panel featuring a naked, sweating Gary—not a half-submerged Gary, not Gary’s feet. His head is turned upwards, he’s sweating, his chest is bare—he is at the peak of his masculinity. The prospective reader understands that this book will be even more unrestrained than its predecessors.

gary back cover

But there’s more to it: this cover is very important in considering the nature of Cannon’s evolution as an artist. When the cover of Gary: Book Two is judged against the entirety of Gary: Book One, the strides made by the former convey that the artist is coming into his own. When Gary: Book Three’s cover is judged against what has come before, the polish exuded by the former indicates that the artist is embracing the fact of his maturity. Mr. Cannon's skill is fully-realized, and because of this, the cover needs to be so captivating.

The first page of the work reiterates that confidence—it's a departure from the first pages of the other two Gary books.

gary page one

Here, Cannon does not depict a splash from Gary’s perspective; he gives us four first person panels and a wide third person panel instead. They’re contemplative panels, and given the other books of the cycle, the reader is led to believe that they’re also tense, that they’ll culminate in something gruesome. Gary’s head is slightly raised in that last panel, his eyes are open, he grips the woman’s shoulder: Gary must be stroking the hair of another dead woman, right? That doesn’t look like a sleeping face, does it?

gary page 2

It’s his pregnant wife.

Cannon not only deviates from what the reader expects from the first page, he deviates from what they expect of the second page in the context of that first page. It’s a feat that originates in the artist’s confidence—

—and the pages are interesting. Reflecting on them transforms the sequence into a different thing. Gary’s hand and his wife’s hand in the first four panels are surrounded by white, making both distinct from the blackness that surrounds them—it's an effect only seen one other time in the cycle, in this book. His stroking of her hair exhibits a kind of tenderness that’s highlighted by the panel progression and that aura. At least, we know now that it’s tenderness.

Bars form the headboard near the top of the second page. There were bars in the very first page of the cycle , too, but positioned towards the bottom of the page. Is the reemergence of this symbol a way of framing the cycle?

We know from the first book that Gary and his wife do not stay together. That, along with Gary’s detached expression, and the way that his hands do not grasp his wife give rise to the conclusion that Gary’s unhappy here. He’s a prisoner. This becomes even clearer when the sequence is compared to the last sequence of the book’s first half.

But there’s that tenderness on the first page—how may that be reconciled with Gary as a prisoner? The answer lies in the reader’s consideration of the sequence as a recapitulation of Gary and his wife’s relationship from Gary’s perspective. It’s happiness followed by discontent.

Recapitulation describes many of the sequences in Gary: Book Three. Different aspects of Gary and the Gary cycle are revisited and encapsulated, and sometimes even developed further. Cannon hearkens back to certain panels and panel arrangements from the other books. It’s all done with an air of closure.

Take, for example, one of the cycle’s last instances of the recurring anger triptych from the first book. Cannon orients the panels vertically, and pairs each panel with a wide frame depicting an action—Gary is finally able to properly release his anger.

anger trip

Like the rest of the cycle, Gary: Book Three is divided into two distinct parts. The first involves sequences that blur the distinction between the reprehensible Gary and the superficially well-adjusted Gary by explicitly featuring the former in the latter’s milieu. There are some parts in the other books that do the same, but they usually appear as stingers at the end of a sequence—here, the mixture of the two Garys is much more pronounced.

transposed

There are still sequences where Gary appears to be well-adjusted, but the presence of a previously-seen panel or a paired sequence quickly reins the reader in before they can regard Gary as anything more than what he is. Cannon has never wanted there to be ambiguity in the reader’s perception of Gary.

The gruesome parts here are unlike the ones of Gary: Book Two’s first half—they're not focused on extreme expressions of emotion, but contemplate on the acts themselves. The urgency of Gary: Book Two’s gruesome parts are not present here. The reader is able to stomach this because of two books worth of desensitization; by contrast, recall the gruesomeness at the end of Gary: Book One’s first half, and how out-of-place it seemed.

Gary: Book Two’s second half opens with an extended sequence—the second-longest in the entire cycle—which culminates in one of the most gruesome parts of the cycle. A borderless panel places extreme emphasis on the act.

The longest sequence in the cycle is one that doesn’t have a particular date or place associated with it. It’s an almost-abstract, open-ended sequence that recapitulates the entire cycle with familiar symbols and familiar tension. This is followed by the end of the book, which prods the reader into reflecting on all they have read, and Gary himself. The last page is elegantly done.

onwards

In terms of the book’s flaws: though it’s polished and confident, it’s clear that Cannon’s art has not improved to the extent that it improved between Gary: Book One and Gary: Book Two. There are still moments of stiffness and flatness, but—as mentioned in the previous review—that's more attributable to the art style than the artist’s ability. Finally, the first sequence of the book’s second half feels like an anomaly—its length and borderless panel containing its climax make it seem almost exploitative.

But the reader of Tyrell Cannon’s Gary: Book Three is one who has gone through the first two books and decided that the cycle should be seen to its end. There is little that the book needs to do to ensure the reader’s interest. There is little the book can do wrong to turn off the reader.

And Gary: Book Three will satisfy. As always, Cannon approaches the subject matter in a carefully considered, largely restrained way. He exhibits more flashes of confidence here than the other books as his artistic ability exceeds itself. In addition to closing the cycle, Cannon unifies the cycle by manipulating symbols, patterns and panels first seen in the other books to great effect. It is a terrific—it is a wonderful—it is a worthwhile read.

TL;DR: Tyrell Cannon’s Gary cycle examines memories from the life of a serial killer thoughtfully and tastefully, with an evolving skill that is impressive to behold as it reaches maturity.

parting shot

Gary: Book Three is the last of three books in the Gary cycle, written and illustrated by Tyrell Cannon—the books collect memories from the life of a serial killer. It is self-published and available on his website. There are a lot of great process notes on how the author drafted Gary on the rest of the site as well, so do give it a look. There is also a list of local comic book shops that carry his books at the bottom of the store page. If you have an indie-friendly shop and would like to see his books there, let them know!

A review PDF of Gary: Book Three was graciously provided to Spandexless by the creator.