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.
Sturm draws his story in a largely realistic style, with simple black lines filled with a gray-wash of details that give events a real-world solidity. Except for one intentionally glaring inconsistency: all of these humanly proportioned people have dog heads. The choice is a familiar one, but unlike, say, in Art Spiegelman's Maus, Sturm's characters are visually fuller, with even their dog facial features sometimes drawn with naturalistic contours, making them teeter between real-looking dogs and Snoopy-esque cartoons. The effect is intriguingly odd, especially when characters are grounded in utterly human actions ... Despite its fragmented, episodic structure, Off Season is artfully plotted, but ... I felt betrayed by this ending. Fortunately, four panels can't erase the pleasure of the 220-some that precede them. Off Season is an emotionally insightful reflection on the challenges of marriage and parenthood, as paralleled and reflected by the turmoil of contemporary politics.