Best Wishes is a beautifully written story about luck and fate as well as understanding the obvious around us. The characters are wonderfully nuanced and reflective of what you’ll find it NYC society today. From a small premise the story unfolds, often going in very unexpected ways. There’s also meat to the story in that this isn’t a quick read and forget; Best Wishes unfolds organically and gives the narrative time to really bloom into a satisfying denouement. It’s a story that if made into a movie, would have starred Fred Astair or a young Meg Ryan.
Story: Cal is a struggling graphic designer trying to make ends meet with his own small business. Mary has a good life including a pro quarterback boyfriend who is devoted to her but often very busy. At a wishing fountain imported into NYC from a small Italian hamlet, both end up making an impulsive wish: Cal’s coin flip comes with a desire for recognition and fame while Mary’s coin is a desire for her boyfriend to find true love and commit fully already. When their coins land on their sides and meet up, both will find each other’s wish granted in very mysterious ways.
This has one of the best paced plots I’ve read in a very long time. More like a great date-night movie than a graphic novel, Best Wishes flows smoothly from beginning to end while never feeling too short or too long. As we become intrigued by the lives of our three (almost four) main characters, it’s not hard to appreciate the subtle tics given to each character. Cal’s resentment over always being underappreciated and overlooked; Mary’s guilt over how lucky her life has been compared to others, Josh the quarterback’s waffling on everything in his life. Even the side characters are wonderfully unique and distinct – Mary’s roommate and her own envy over Mary’s luck and the very superb contrast of the owners of Mary’s advertising firm. I loved every single one of them and probably worked with quite a few.
The heart of the story is probably Mary more than Cal. She’s just a nice person that no one can really hate for all that life has been good to her. Cal’s bitterness and cynicism over his frustration with how life has dealt him poor cards is a great contrast to Mary’s passive optimism. The very prickly and odd relationship the three form is mostly from Cal’s viewpoint and his suspicion and then acceptance rewarding by the end. The character development from start to finish was everything I hope to see in this marriage of images and story. In addition to the great characterizations, there is a charm and humor in so many of the plot points.
The art is perfect – clean and very artistically delivered. From the rainy days always seeming to be in Cal’s world to Mary’s uncomplicated self. Josh always has a distracted mien and Mary’s roommate observes Mary’s life quietly and perhaps even a bit predatory. The panels are nicely laid out and enhance the story in the best ways.
In all, a favorite read this year. I’m not typically a slice-of-life reader – I like a bit more drama. But this was exemplary in every way. A graphic novel for the modern adult who still can enjoy a bit of romance and magic in the world. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.