“Troop 142: A Graphic Novel” is a slice-of-life indy comic with its origins in a webcomic. In it, we get a taste of life at a scout camp over the course of a week. Like most slice-of-life comics, there’s no real plot, just a variety of situations that may or may not ring a bell to readers who’ve spent time at a camp, either as an adult supervisor or as one of the kids who suddenly find themselves in a non-school setting with their peers.
Cartoonist Mike Dawson catalogs the week of scouting activities and all their ambiguities by setting his focus on many of the characters who’ve arrived at the Pinewood Forest Boy Scout Camp. Those characters each have their own story, whether it’s revealed in a panel or two or through one of the book-long threads.
Those characters come in the types you’d expect to show up at any sleepover camp — A true cross-section of suburbia. There’s the passive, thoughtful father and his son. There’s the gruff dad who seems to have all the answers, just because he assumes he’s right. The scouts themselves represent all the archetypes: Angry kids, fat kids, quiet kids, confused kids, mature kids and dumb kids. There’s followers, leaders and outcasts. You know them all, and this book lets you see inside their head.
With so many characters, we roll through encounter after encounter that seems as real as any experience we’ve ever had. There’s no extraordinary or enlightening experiences here, it’s just life and that makes “Troop 142” incredibly relatable to just about any reader.
All those compelling qualities in “Troop 142” are delivered by Dawson’s deft cartooning. It’s a great style and his character designs instantly reveal the nature of the character, which he then backs up with spot-on dialogue.
Somewhere through “Troop 142,” you’ll find a familiar experience or two. If you’ve ever spent time at a summer camp, you’ll appreciate how Mike Dawson captures the real spirit of those long days in the woods. He understands how the isolation of a campground can push you into honest thoughts and how they coalesce by a campfire, forming some of the most memorable moments you’ll ever have.