2012 Eisner Award Nominee: Best Graphic Album – New
Recipient of a Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize Honor Award
Ranked #4 on The A.V. Club's Best Comics of 2011: Graphic Novels & Art Comics – Original Graphic Novels
Alex Kalienka is in an awful jam.
Literally, a traffic jam — but figuratively, his whole life is a mess. A dream job turned nightmare at the biggest animation studio in the world. A love affair that is not what he imagined. And possibly someone with a life-threatening grudge against him...
In his first new graphic novel since 2001’s acclaimed Mail Order Bride, Mark Kalesniko compresses an entire life into a single day as the frustrated animator, stewing on a pitiless California freeway, alternately rages, reminisces, fantasizes, and hallucinates — intercut with a series of imagined moments from two generations ago, the Golden Age of animation, when an earlier Alex made his entry into a much different professional world.
Loaded with fascinating insider gossip and historical details on two different eras of animators, skipping seamlessly among the present and several different pasts, reality and fantasy, Freeway is another step forward for a major cartooning talent.
“Kalesniko is an expert at sophisticated, visually efficient narrative renderings of complex emotions. His drawings are spare and cinematic, and each panel underscores the characters’ psychological isolation or another revealing detail.” — Publishers Weekly on Mail Order Bride
"Kalesniko reprises his alter ego, Alex Kalienka, for his most ambitious and accomplished graphic novel yet. Trapped in a horrific traffic jam en route to his job at an animation studio, Alex reminisces about his myriad artistic and romantic frustrations since moving to Los Angeles, fantasizes about what his life would have been like in the postwar golden age of the animation industry, and imagines himself the victim of gruesome traffic accidents. Kalesniko skillfully juggles the three tiers of the narrative, using fade-ins to mark the transitions between eras. Alex — depicted, as always, as a dog-headed man to mark his alienation and in tribute to cartooning’s anthropomorphic animals — has always been a touchingly sympathetic figure, but Freeway’s massive length allows Kalesniko to give the character a heretofore unseen depth. Although Kalesniko’s formal storytelling devices, particularly his deft panel arrangements and intelligent compositions, are largely responsible for Freeway’s impressive effectiveness, it’s his distinctive and delicate drawing style that supplies the emotional component, best displayed in the economical character design and in the painstakingly researched, lovingly depicted scenes of a bygone Los Angeles." – Gordon Flagg, Booklist (Starred Review)