Ben Katchor (“The creator of the last great American comic strip.”—Michael Chabon) gives us his first book in more than ten years: the story of the fantastical nation of Outer Canthus and the three people who, in some way or another, inhabit its shores. Emile Delilah is a young xenophile (lover of foreign nations) so addicted to traveling to the exotic regions of Outer Canthus that the government pays him a monthly stipend just so he can continue his visits. Living in the same tenement as Emile are Boreal Rince, the exiled king of Outer Canthus, and Elijah Salamis, a supranationalist determined to erase the cultural and geographic boundaries that separate the citizens of the Earth. Although they rarely meet, their lives intertwine through the elaborate fictions they construct and inhabit: a vast panorama of humane hamburger stands, exquisitely ethereal ethnic restaurants, ancient restroom ruins, and wild tracts of land that fit neatly next to high-rise hotels. The Cardboard Valise is a graphic novel as travelogue; a canvas of semi-surrealism; and a poetic, whimsical, beguiling work of Ben Katchor’s dazzling imagination.
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While this is definitely not my favorite work by Ben Katchor, it is not without a certain charm. However, even more so than his well-known Julius Knipl character, this meandering set of comic strips concerning Tensint Island and Fluxion City seems to lack much of a unifying force, and the best strips are ultimately weighed down by many strips that are simply strange and (at best) mildly amusing. Katchor remains a genuine original, dedicated to a very individual vision of modern American life, but his technique has produced more interesting results in earlier volumes.more