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Review: Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir

prison-islandMcNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the United States, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frake’s. Her parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. In this engaging graphic memoir, a Xeric and Ignatz Award-winning comics artist, Colleen Frakes, tells the story of a typical girl growing up in atypical circumstances.

Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir is a fun, somewhat quirky, graphic novel recounting Frakes’ rather unique life. Within the first ten pages I found myself laughing at this oddly endearing take on what it’s like to not just live on a prison island, but also to have prison staff as your parents.

The humor of the graphic novel is partially due to what should be simple tasks that are far from it. Escaped inmates, trying to get pizza delivered to an island, just living on the island period, it all creates a very intriguing life that is beyond interesting to find out more about.

The narrative of the graphic novel revolves around returning to the island for an event and touring for nostalgia with her family. The direction of this storytelling helps us learn even more about Frakes’ childhood, through her family interaction. The combination of flashbacks with the present day tour creates an understanding of a lot of Frakes’ experiences. It enriches the experience by giving the characters even more depth and moves the story away from simply being a series of quirky stories.

Frakes art is fantastic giving just enough detail to make the art something you linger over for details, but also it has a fun sense about it that enhances to vibe of the overall graphic novel.

This is a fantastic graphic memoir that brings us into a world none of us will ever experience. Full of humor, this is one to get and one of the most entertaining graphic novels I’ve read in some time.

Story: Colleen Frakes Art: Colleen Frakes
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy