Books

Campbell Whyte
Home Time II: Beyond the Weaving

When faced with tricky life-or-death decisions, the preteens of Australian graphic novel series Home Time don’t tread lightly or seek parental approval: as one of them says, “Now’s the time to ruin everything by doing something totally awesome.” These characters exist in the same plane as Bearded Dragons and rings of white fire, though, so the rules as we know them don’t apply in the fictional world created by Perth-born comics-maker and illustrator Campbell Whyte.

In the series’ first instalment, Under the River, six friends on the last leg of their summer vacation end up in an alternative universe, filled with fruit creatures, evil lizards, hallucinogenic teas – and no guarantee of finding a way out. Beyond the Weaving picks up the story by following their mission to return to their old life.

Whyte’s talent for world-building continues to shine through here, with full-page visual intermissions that focus on the quiet grandeur of Australian flora and fauna. This is a place with no internet, one where smartphones and Instagram filters can’t scramble communication – or distract from the noble quest to save friends from unspeakable evils. Not that new readers should expect a Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic romp: instead, this story shares more DNA with Pendleton Ward’s blissfully silly, compassionate science-fiction buddy TV series, Adventure Time.

It’s clear early on that Whyte respects young people’s intelligence, without forgetting they may also be prone to calling someone a “butt jerk” in a fit of frustration. Some of the best bits in Beyond the Weaving involve hearing the kids’ philosophical candour with each other – including gems such as, “Pretending you’re perfect just means you stop seeing other people as people.”

Artistically, Whyte – with the help of a production team – is more ambitious in this second volume. The artwork gets weirder, even chaotic. Two-tone ’80s-era dot matrix patterns blend into film photography reproductions, alongside intricate pencil illustrations and handwritten diary entries. We’re dared to stretch our suspension of disbelief as the kids start to remember the way things were in suburban Western Australia.

Written for readers aged 13 and up, the series pairs well with Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy, a sly subversion of legacy comic book superheroes. Beyond the Weaving would also appeal to parents who may have been Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts, and anyone nostalgic for the comfort of binge-watching late ’80s and early ’90s Saturday morning cartoons.

Nathania Gilson

Top Shelf, 224pp, $49.99

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 24, 2020 as "Campbell Whyte, Home Time II: Beyond the Weaving".

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Reviewer: Nathania Gilson