Review - Atomic Sheep

"Welp" in real life conversation? Seriously?"

Remember high school? Chances are no, probably because you've blocked the experience from your memory as much as possible. The experience is just that though--an experience. And it always makes for a fun read in comic books such as Atomic Sheep from Markosia Entertainment. The graphic novel is written and illustrated by Sally Jane Thompson.

Sixteen year old Tamrika Fuller is happy with her life. She's got great friends and even greater grades, giving her no reason to be concerned...until her parents reveal that they've been saving for year to send her to their alma mater for her final years of high school. That place just so happens to be an old-fashioned boarding academy several miles from Vancouver. It introduces her to a new, feisty roommate and a whole world where she feels completely out of place, as the school focuses more on science than the arts.

The work definitely resonates with just about everyone who's spent any amount of time in high school; especially those who happen to transfer into a new one. Thompson captures the awkwardness pretty effectively, conveying the notion that regardless of how you end up, you're never really "cool" in high school. The dialogue is pretty short and snappy too, with very few words wasted in Tamrika's quest to get the arts club going. There does feel to be a little bit of a non-conformist message in the book that Thompson hits the reader over the head with on more than one occasion. If Thompson allowed the work itself to be an affront to conformity (rather than Tamrika having non-conformist thoughts all the time), the message may have been delivered more smoothly.

Thompson also handles the art duties and the simple style is very powerful. She capitalizes on bold, black outlines against an almost washed out, peach background, all of which makes up the entire color palette. She does some really fun things with panels and layouts as well, not--ahem--conforming to the standard, rectangular layout that most comic books rely on. The characters offer up the right mix that you would expect in high school and none of them really stand out over the others. She also uses facial expressions that are even more stripped down for certain scenes to convey the base emotion experienced at the moment.

Atomic Sheep is a book that everyone can relate to and Thompson has infused it with a lot of angst. That angst though gives the reader something to commiserate with and really nails what it means to be lost both within yourself and those around you. The book offers something of a silver lining in that if you really do believe in something and keep pushing yourself for it, things will get better. It's very much a rose-colored glasses view of the world (further bolstered by the peach/salmon color choice for the book) and Thompson conveys a very positive and upbeat message through the high school trials and tribulations of Tamrika. It's an interesting book that's refreshing in both its honesty and optimism.

Atomic Sheep is available now.