If you are into trippy drug fueled stories that delve into the lamentations of a life gone wrong then The Wrenchies by graphic novelist Farel Dalrymple is quite possibly up your alley. Personally, trippy isn’t particularly my thing. I mean trippy stories can be good. There are a number that I have enjoyed but in general they aren’t what I look for. I’m glad I gave this one a read though. I think the review of my experience with The Wrenchies will be a testament to my sentiments. Having said that, I’m not ambivalent on this story at all. I liked it despite myself being incapable of putting it down. It’s a great work through and through.
The story is all about Sherwood Breadcoat, the creator of The Wrenchies comic book and unwilling Antichrist. The story begins with a young Sherwood and his brother Orson wondering into a cave where Sherwood is defiled by a demon and thereafter they become adventurers fighting evil. Everything in this narrative is drenched in symbolism. While the story is trippy all of the symbolism is readily understandable which is a credit to the creator of the work. Sherwood grows up after fierce and incessant battles with evil both on Earth and in space where he was a captive on an alien vessel. When he returns he enters the workforce and/or becomes a super spy who continues the fight against evil. Seeing that the evil will soon overwhelm him and consume him, he hinges all of his bets on an extraordinary plan that combines both advanced scientific and magical theorizing to execute. It also requires tremendous faith in his neighbor, a young boy named Hollis who reminds him of his youth and the promise that it represented. He entrusts Hollis with a magical medallion that will allow him to travel through time to aid the heroes of the future along with the past heroes whose spirits he sealed within The Wrenchies comic book in ending the evil plague that has engulfed the world. The medallion which he entrusts to Hollis is also the key to reviving the original Wrenchies in the future. There are two separate generations of Wrenchies. One group is the group of past heroes sealed within the comic and the other Wrenchies are a strong gang of children presently in the future (trippy) fighting for their survival against the evil that is destroying the world. Like the past Wrenchies they are fearless and capable fighters; well known in their time as the strongest gang.
That is the narrative on the surface level however running parallel to that is the disturbing truth of Sherwood’s life and why he actually wrote The Wrenchies. The real life Sherwood is not what who you come to think of him through the first 150 so pages of the story. I’ll leave it at that. I said drug fueled and trippy. You will see. However either way the basis of The Wrenchies comic book remains the same. Sherwood wrote the story as a sort of redemption or salvation from the evils he had unleashed. It is only that the reality he seeks redemption from is neither different nor the same as the truth that Hollis comes to experience through his adventures. One character in the story actually makes reference to this in the story when he contemplates the state of his existence. Trippy yet well done.
The execution of the art and writing meld perfectly within the narrative. The story is trippy and the art is trippy. The story is trippy and the writing is trippy. Simple as that. The world building in the story made everything work as well. It’s not important to me that the story make logical sense per say but that the world created within the story justifies the logic of the plot and actions therein.
Other reviewers have expressed a great deal of sentiment suggesting that the author was making a grand statement about his creative process as well but through my experience of the narrative I didn’t see it as a major theme. Certainly it dealt with his creative experience but the idea that struck me most was that Sherwood was using the creation of The Wrenchies as his way of dealing with the things he had done. I felt like the creative process was part of that but coming to terms with his remorsefully wasted youth, transgressions, and inner child disappointing lifestyle. The Wrenchies to me was both his cry for help as he was unable to stop his self destructive behavior and his cathartic way of expressing his understanding of himself. He needed heroes to save him so he created them.
Hollis is the trippiest part of all though. He is a real kid according to the story but what of his part in the adventure? I like that Dalrymple leaves that up to the reader. Dalrymple also leaves a few other events up to interpretation like his interactions with other real people who becomes characters in The Wrenchies. One website suggests that Hollis is an “audience surrogate” to borrow their phrasing. I can see the point but I can’t remember anything that would definitively point to that. To me he acts as an odd type of hybrid character. As I see it, there are three levels of experience in the narrative. One is Sherwood’s reality, the other being The Wrenchies comic book and the final level of experience is Sherwood’s interpretation of Hollis’s experience of the The Wrenchies comic book. I don’t know though. Trippy.