Sunday, December 25, 2011

GN Review -- The Nobody / Jeff Lemire

When a stranger with an odd appearance and mysterious past takes up residence in a sleepy, dull small town, how much does the curiosity of the town's denizens about him factor against the stranger's tight-lipped desire for peace and privacy?  Canadian comic creator Jeff Lemire explores this question in his 2009 drama, The Nobody.

The Nobody is essentially a reimagining of The Invisible Man, with the setting altered to be the approximate present day and the location to be a rural fishing town, Large Mouth.  John Griffen, a scientist who developed and tested an invisibility formula on himself, has rendered himself permanently invisible and must now completely cover himself from head to toe, making for a strange and unsettling appearance to others.  He has set up shop in the small town to work on an antidote for it, but soon finds that the townsfolk are more than just mildly curious about this new stranger.

The daughter of a local diner owner, Vickie, takes a personal interest in Griffen, eventually striking up a friendship with him.  But as the townsfolks' intense distrust of him simmers, his life becomes complicated by the visit of a former colleague, who tries to blackmail him.  When events take a dark turn, Griffen finds himself on the receiving end of the town's suspicions over the disappearance of a local.  He is chased by the frenzied mob despite any wrongdoing, and events unfold in a way that show the townsfolk of Large Mouth are truly the ones to be distrustful and paranoid over.

I really liked the writing of this story, from the concept of a present-day invisible man to the portrayals of Griffen, Vickie, and the townsfolk of Large Mouth, who have varying levels of curiosity and suspicion about their new resident.  The dialog is simple and straightforward, much like the plot, though neither fails to keep the reader interested in the story at hand.  Of particular note is the tragedy infused in Griffen's battle against insanity, which seems to be caused by the condition rendering him invisible.  It gradually worsens through the narrative, placing a timer and giving some urgency to his quixotic quest to find a cure for his condition, but also makes him a tragic figure.

The townsfolk are also memorable too, though certainly not in a positive light.  Some defend Griffen's right to privacy at first, but as the events of the story unfold, most of them show themselves to be a bunch of overly curious, suspicious, and paranoid dullards, more interested in keeping things predictable and in line with their narrow worldview than in accepting differences in people.  This becomes especially true towards the end of the narrative, when paranoia and hysteria overtake reason in their search for a local who has gone mysteriously missing.  Many tragic events occur that could have been avoided with a more reasoned approach.

Lemire's artwork has certainly improved over the years, having gotten tighter, and more stark.  His linework makes for characters that are simplistically yet realistically drawn, and he doesn't shy away from portraying the haggard, drawn faces of the townsfolk, whose lives are probably both simple in routine and hard in daily toil.  It makes for a slightly surreal experience, but one that works very well with the story he tells.

I do enjoy Lemire's works, and can't deny that I was pretty well hooked on this book from the get-go.  Anyone who enjoys a good story will like this work, as will fans of Invisible Man stories or portrayals of small towns and the personalities that may dwell within them.  Highly recommended.

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