In a small 6¨x 9¨ book of 186 full-colour pages, cartoonist Álvaro Ortiz writes and illustrates a long and winding road tale. Its Ashes, a new graphic novel from IDW / Top Shelf.

The story, a meandering saga of loss, cremation, desolation, and isolation, is a staggeringly disconnected series of plot dots, with plenty of time for us to see the small panel drawings, sometimes 13 panels per page. We are with Polly, Moho and Peter, and a monkey. The humans are reluctantly reuniting to transport the ashes of their dead friend. It all starts off well, as we learn about their lives, their squabbles and relationships. Everyone gets drunk and has their thing to get off their chest.

It gets longwinded, though, as the little tiny panels begin to add up, mile after mile, page after page, and the suspense evaporates along the desert plains. It’s plainly interesting but arrid and too long. It needs focus, editing, cutting.

Ortiz’s dialogue, though, is sharp and pointed, his drawings fascinating. The simple lines of the shapes, the expressions, the environments, it’s wonderfully rendered to be minimalist, to be easy to view. His colours are muted, browns and pale yellows and greens, interspersed with pockets of blue sky and light tones.

But my feeling is that we are asked to read too much, we are driven down extraneous side roads, back streets, wasting time on the small stuff when we really itch for some forward movement, some big stakes, and a sense of cohesion.

Ashes, Top Shelf/ IDW, $19.99 for 186 pages of content. Mature language

By Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!