Fall Through

Fall Through is a graphic novel by National Book Award–winning writer-artist Nate Powell, who grew up in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). The book was inspired by the central Arkansas underground music scene of the 1990s.

Published on February 6, 2024, by Abrams ComicArts, the book tells the story of Diamond Mine, a scrappy punk rock quartet from the fictional town of Wormwood, Arkansas, whose members include singer Diana, guitarist Napoleon, bassist Jody, and drummer Steff. The first-person narrative, set in 1994, is told by the idealistic Jody.

Rather than follow a simple story of friends in an underground band, Powell introduces themes of time travel, mental health, magical realism, and the supernatural, subjects he has written about in earlier graphic novels like his 2008 debut Swallow Me Whole and 2018’s Come Again (Diamond Mine first appeared in the latter). The reader learns early on that Jody, who appears to be in her twenties in 1994, somehow attended a notorious 1978 Sex Pistols concert in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a teenager, and Diamond Mine’s signature song, “Fall Through,” is a sort of portal to other dimensions for the group each time it is played.

Powell also explores band dynamics, particularly the relationship between Jody and the fiercely driven Diana, who seems to be the catalyst for the bizarre, uncanny events that occur when “Fall Through” is performed and who keeps pushing the group to remain on the road, performing shows for small but boisterous gatherings of fans. The tour becomes a sort of rolling, timeless Neverland for Diana, but the others long to return to their lives in Wormwood.

Powell was a member of the band Soophie Nun Squad, based in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and became familiar with life in a punk rock group with limited funds and commercial potential. The book’s title, from a single recorded in 1993 by Little Rock band Five-O, is one of several nods Powell gives to the central Arkansas alternative rock scene.

Fall Through is also a showcase for his distinctive artwork. A longtime fan of comics like “X-Men” and the artists Bill Sienkiewicz and Arthur Adams, Powell exhibits a looping, confident line that hums with vibrancy and action. He uses chiaroscuro to glorious effect, bursting through inky black expanses with oranges, yellows, magentas, and other hues. His imaginative page layout helps propel the story’s sense of urgency and madness, capturing the anarchy and abandon of a punk rock show. He often eases up on the pace of the narrative and pulls back on the levels of visual information, resulting in several moments of quiet tenderness and sweet observation, like when Jody packs her things before tour or falls asleep with Diana on a mattress on a stranger’s floor. In the New York Times, reporter and critic Sam Thielman said of Fall Through: “Perhaps it’s a ghost story, perhaps it’s a fantasy story, but it’s refreshingly oblique.”

For additional information:
Clancy, Sean. “Anarchy and Action.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 6, 2024, pp. 1A, 6A. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2024/feb/05/books-graphic-novelist-nate-powell-releases-fall/ (accessed May 15, 2024).

Powell, Nate. Fall Through. New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2024.

Sean Clancy
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


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