Animal crackers are the characters in this beautiful, sad, and terrifically drawn B&W graphic novel about infatuation, secrecy, utopian dreams, and fears of the unknown. To say "Spiral-Bound" would be an excellent choice as a gift for a comics-friendly kid you know is true, but the adorability of the cast and the profundity will pull in anyone literate and sensitive enough to enjoy its adept storytelling.
The world Aaron Renier creates is a coy, cartoon version of a Borges thought maze, where a charming village symbolizes eternity. Aesthetics is at the center of this world, as a dialect for truth and survival. Sculpture is the art form of choice for chief protagonist Turnip the elephant, though his father is wary of his training due to the dire previous history of their town. Turnip's pal Stucky is a talented and emotionally generous little scrapper of a dog, but is playing with fire by building a submarine.
The underground newspaper Ana the Rabbit is working for is a wish-fulfillment fantasy for zine and comics kids, with tunnel and portals all over the city, and Ana's destiny unfurls as the story becomes more dramatic. Oddly, these characters all remind me of friends I have, and I imagine they could be idealized animal versions of the author/artist's own social life.
It's hard to believe that "Spiral-Bound" is Renier's first graphic novel, as it is as well thought out and affecting as anything by Craig Thompson or John Porcellino, two of the best in the field. Even though it may not have the direct verisimilitude due to its anthropomorphic and mythic quality, it has the depth of human insight as "Blankets" and the naïve charm of "King Cat" comics, and would be especially good for neophytes who love fantasy or children's books and want to experience an alternative comic with heart and something to say. Highly recommended.