Graphic Novels Reading Rainbow
Why Are You Doing This? By: Jason

1. Emmy Elliott

2. This graphic novel is about a mediocre, simple character, named Alex, who is heartbroken and in search of a more exciting life. His best friend Claude is an upbeat, likeable, and caring guy who wants to help Alex move on from his ex-girlfriend. Claude goes on a trip for two weeks and asks Alex to come by to his apartment and water his plants while he is away. While Alex is watering the plants he notices a dark and shadowy figure in a nearby apartment window.  He doesn’t think much of it until he meets up with Claude at his apartment later in the week.   When Alex arrives to welcome Claude home from his trip, he finds him murdered in his apartment. Alex is in complete shock. Why would someone murder his friend? Before he even has time to think about the reasons behind his friends abrupt and tragic death, the police arrive banging on the door.  Alex flees the scene of the crime, in an effort to protect himself from being accused of the murder. He isn’t captured but his picture is posted all over the town and news. He is now a convict on the run and is taken in by a complete stranger named Geraldine. Geraldine was abused and left by her husband; leaving her with her daughter, Sandra. Although Geraldine has been through much heartache, she is an unconditionally kind and caring person who only wants to help Alex through the chaotic situation that he found himself in. The two worked together to research the murder and found out that earlier in the week, someone had been murdered in the apartment across the street in an act of revenge. Alex connected the dots to realize that the man in the window he had seen while watering Claude’s plants was the murderer and that he was trying to get rid of any witnesses. He mistook Claude for Alex and Alex was left to clean up the pieces and clear his own record. The book reaches its climax when Sandra is held hostage with the murderer who demands to meet with Alex face to face. The ending takes a surprise twist that will leave you thinking of the message and the relation of the characters to your own life.  This book focuses on what it means to live and what you do in your life that defines who you are. Alex is constantly asking others “How many stories do you have to tell at parties?” He is focused on leading a life that is exciting not only to him, but the important people in his life as well. It is a common feeling that we as humans have of feeling incomplete and that where ever we are, we find ourselves looking out the window wishing we were somewhere else. It also focuses on the theme of loss; not just of physical things such as Alex losing his best friend and his girlfriend, Geraldine losing her husband, and Sandra losing her father, but also on losing memories and time. The title “Why Are You Doing This” relates back to Alex’s relationship with Geraldine. She knows that he is wanted for murder and she still takes him in and helps him in a way he never thought of asking for. He asks her “why are you doing this?” Geraldine responds “Isn’t that what people do?”  It is a universal truth that these acts of kindness are viewed as shocking which forces us to ask ourselves the question why is it so shocking when we come across someone who is nice just for the sake of it and doesn’t have other motives?

3. The artwork in this book is in ink and is Jason’s first full color graphic novel. He uses a dull color scheme that adds an air of somberness to the novel. He purposefully used a simple and elementary style of rendering to get his message across to the audience.  There is also use of silhouettes and an oversimplification of the characters themselves. The main characters are all a hybrid of a dog head and a human-like body. I think that he purposefully makes these figures in a way that we can relate to them and form an attachment, like we would with a human or dog.  These abstract creatures are also showed with little facial expressions and the only way we can tell who they are is by reading the text to go along with it. The overall artwork and scenery in the novel is minimalistic and simplified which makes the novel easy and enjoyable to read. Jason used some lines for the scenery but his characters were filled in with very little detail. In my opinion he does this to make the characters more relate-able and universal. The shapes he uses are basic shapes that appear to have been drawn with a quick hand in a manner that makes them look unfinished. There is no attempt made to make things look realistic- there is no depth being created and no use of overlapping to make objects recede or come forwards. This isn’t a bad thing because if Jason had made the drawings too ornate and detailed we would be distracted from the deeper message that he is trying to convey.  His drawings contain no volume and are very flat. There is no attempt being made to distinguish visual textures from one another; for example the grass is just a filled in green rectangle. All of the scenes and characters in this novel are very concrete which are harmonious with his message.

4. Jason’s purpose for writing this novel is to shed light on the simple man who is in search for a better life. It is a universal story that everyone can relate to in some aspect. The message that stuck out to me was simply the title “Why Are You Doing This?” which relates back to a scene in the book where Geraldine is helping Alex hide out from the police and recollect his life.  Jason wants us to think about the main feelings that drive us as humans; why do we help others? Why do we have to experience loss? Why do we cope with loss by seeking revenge? How does this affect others around us? Jason’s modern and classic tale is one that we can relate to now and that we can think about later.

5. This novel is strong in its presentation and is easy to read. This story has surprising aspects and turns.  It is a very cleanly written mystery that takes you by surprise (especially the ending!) I looked at the book before I read it and upon first examination I thought it looked very plain and that it was going to be a juvenile message. I was surprised at the maturity and impressed of the combination of the somber and melancholy message mixed with the child-like drawings. I have to admit that I had to read the novel twice to get the full appreciation and understanding of it but it was well worth it and is a quick read.  The more I paid attention to the subtle irony and humor that poked fun at some stereotypes, the more I enjoyed it and had a few good laughs. The flow of the novel is excellent and easy to comprehend. The scenery transition and minimal use of text makes it even more powerful. The story and setting is believable and familiar.

6. This novel was very short; I would like to see him flesh the story out a bit more. The climax of the novel occurred at the very end and only lasted a few pages. He could’ve made the story a bit more gripping by adding more time for the reader to anticipate what was to happen to the characters. I also enjoyed his sense of humor and wish he added more humor into the novel- maybe he could’ve played up the character’s expressions more? This is his first graphic novel with the use of color; it will be interesting to see how his use of color develops, or if it will even change at all. I enjoyed how he used sad and simple colors that went with the context of the novel.

7. This book is for college students and older. It isn’t inappropriate or vulgar by any means, but there is a certain level of maturity that you need to have when viewing this novel and a respect for the work that I think a younger person wouldn’t be able to understand or pick up on. I think that it is a novel that you either “get” or don’t get. It has some indie and quirky qualities to it which appeal to the youth and to someone with an open mind. It is appealing to both sexes and isn’t bias in any cultural categories. It is a very safe novel for someone exploring graphic novels to read. I also think that people who frequently read graphic novels would enjoy this novel. My sister is really trendy and has a bit of an indie vibe to her and I know she would love this novel. I can imagine Urban Outfitters selling this novel in their book section of the store, and not to be stereotypical I think it would appeal to the demographic that shop there.  I am not a graphic novel reader, I had always ignorantly assumed that graphic novels were superman or Spiderman and just for boys. After reading this I definitely would read more graphic novels and enjoy them.

8.  Jason has also written:

“Hey, Wait….”

"Sshhhh!"

"The Iron Wagon"

"Tell Me Something"

"You Can’t Get There From Here 0"

"Why Are You Doing This?"

"Meow, Baby!"

"The Left Bank Gang"

"The Living and the Dead"

"I Killed Adolf Hitler"

"The Last Musketeer"

"Pocket Full of Rain"

"Low Moon"

"Almost Silent"

"Werewolves of Montpellier"

"What I Did"

"Isle of 100,000 Graves"

"Athos in America"

9. I give this book a 4/5.