Murphy succeeds in making this history lesson feel deeply personal by starting with something as relatable as a celebrity fixation, using the need to understand Phoenix’s ending as a way to gain a better understanding of the forces that shaped his environment ... [T]he form enriches Murphy’s personal connection to the material. The fogginess of the wet lines gives the visuals a dreamy quality, and the bleeding inks plus the handwriting creates a sense of spontaneity on the page. It establishes an unexpected tone for a story that is largely about the perseverance of white nationalist ideology across centuries, keeping Murphy’s point of view at the forefront while presenting a wide array of information that says a lot about our current political moment ... I Never Promised You A Rose Garden makes that past feel real with its accessible, emotionally driven storytelling.
There’s a lot to delve into, and Murphy makes some strong connections among Gus Van Sant’s films ... Reading occasionally like true crime and raising provocative questions about masculinity, power, and art, this unique graphic novel critically examines queer cinema and pokes holes in the rosy, naive view of the Pacific Northwest as a progressive stronghold. Hand to readers who love unconventional narrative styles and falling down deep rabbit holes of information.
Murphy’s book is an unrelenting litany of such horrors; I don’t think they say anything positive about their hometown ... they are entitled to their perspective, and they indict the political establishment as well as the arts underground—especially Van Sant—in a despair-filled cycle of drugs, racism and death ... The book’s visual style—a diary written in cursive on schoolchildren’s lined paper with images illustrated in wet blue ink washes—is stunning and just spot-on in conveying the gloomy menace of Murphy’s world. Though they won’t be feted by the local chamber of commerce, this is the work of an important new voice in the graphic storytelling medium.
[A] sprawling examination of disparate pop culture threads [...] but only in service of its larger aim. And trust me when I say that 'larger aim' is a very large one indeed ... Murphy’s not out to shame the residents of present-day Portland, nor the readership in general, so much as to make people aware of the fact that history is written in blood, and that far too many debts remain unpaid. To that end, then, this is a localized, microcosmic representation of a larger history — that of the United States itself and, indeed, all 'frontier' countries in general ... Surprisingly, though, there’s nothing dry, academic, or even especially 'preachy' about it. Murphy’s prose is unwaveringly fluid, disarmingly intimate, and, at times, even borders on the poetic ... an utterly remarkable work. I suppose it would have to be in order to successfully incorporate everyone from William Burroughs to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Kurt Cobain to Keanu Reeves to Cliven Bundy to former KKK Grand Wizard Tom Metzger to Gus Van Sant to, yes, even Geraldo fucking Rivera ... Murphy makes much more than a case for the idea that the currently depressing and alarming white nationalist resurgence is no mere blip on history’s radar screen. They also make a strong case for this being the most affecting, inspired, and important comics release of 2021 to date.
Murphy’s piercing debut, originally self-published as zines, unfolds a disquieting narrative that opens with a rumination on the death of their childhood icon River Phoenix and progresses through a history of white supremacy in Portland, Ore ... The art is unnervingly intimate if not always technical masterpieces, and its often uncanny quality is appropriately unsettling ... Murphy’s elegaic treatment grants a sobering reflection on the depth and deadliness of American intolerance.