Dixie Road |
by Jean Dufaux,
During the Great Depression in America's hot, trashy South, Dixie and her mother, Fergie, live from hand-to-mouth. Fergie works at a plant where exploited workers threaten to strike. That spells big trouble. Dixie's mother is also the object of her boss's son's lust. That spells double-trouble. And Dixie has befriended a black boy.
If that isn't enough, Dixie's mostly absent father has robbed a bank and double-crossed his sadistic partner. Ugly is painted with the lurid brush of rumor, innuendo, lust and innocence, and the color is blood red.
If this all sounds like an exploitive cover blurb for a lost William Faulkner novel about White Southern Trash, surprise! You are on the Dixie Road, an intriguing graphic novel from NBM Publishing that is written by a Belgian and drawn by a Frenchman!
If that isn't surprise enough, Dixie Road is extremely well-written and drawn by these non-Southern gentlemen.
True, its characterization lacks Faulkner's insight into the sordid quirks of the Old South, and writer Jean Dufaux doesn't even attempt Southern dialect. But these are wise choices (or lucky deficiencies) because Dufaux's graphic novel lacks the page count of a prose novel that is needed to develop these nuances. True, Hugues Labiano's art lacks the dirt, sweat and decadence that seems to characterize most southern novels set in the '30s. His landscapes are beautiful, his buildings not dilapidated enough, his cities and cars and people too ... washed. Yet the power of his style, and particularly the visual strength of his characters, overwhelms these objections. They go unnoticed until a careful, second reading.
Most surprising of all, the nudity, profanity and violence that I find so distasteful in most art forms are handled with some reserve in Dixie Road. All are used sparingly and are not glorified. Nevertheless, Dixie Road is only recommended for adults who don't object to the graphic depiction of the dirty side of human nature.