Set against the backdrop of the disorienting 2016 presidential election, this graphic novel—first published in installments at Slate—offers a meditation on love, family, and masculinity in the Trump era.
... wrenching ... Divided into 13 emotionally stunning chapters, its gorgeous blue-gray ink washes evoking the New England winter, Off Season is a revelation ... a seamless contemporary take on economic despair, political confusion and the challenges of parenting.
Off Season combines a blue-collar setting with a prose style so pared down, it comes almost as a surprise to feel a lump suddenly rising in your throat as you turn its pages ... Sturm...has many gifts, but perhaps greatest among them is his ability to capture the sudden crosscurrents that come with any intimate relationship ... I cherish many things about this book, from the way it deals so delicately with the (often toxic) issue of masculinity in Trump’s America to the many shades of blue-grey in which it is drawn (every scene, whether in a diner or the offices of a marriage counselor, comes with a hint of darkness) ... There is a sweetness here—trace it back to Charles Schulz—that both mitigates against the story’s existential sadness and deepens it, somehow. It democratizes Sturm’s characters and, in doing so, reminds the reader at every turn that the U.S. is growing ever less fair almost by the minute.
Mark’s blue-collar dissatisfaction has much to say about contemporary America — but where Off Season excels is in its representation of the achingly sad breakdown of a couple and an extended family. Sturm handles Mark’s narration with painful precision; rarely able to articulate feelings other than anger, when he does, Mark’s spartan thoughts are doubly effective ... At times Sturm is less delicate — five panels of Mark upturning his house in search of his phone feel like a thin excuse to illustrate the squalor of his lifestyle. But the majority of Off Season rings true with natural (and depressing) ease ... The unadorned style of Sturm’s drawing contributes to the book’s emotional tug, focusing our attention on the characters rather than the world around them.