Graphic Novel Friday: "The Nobody"

In 1897, H.G. Wells created his tragic character Griffen, a.k.a. The Invisible Man.  Over 100 years later, Jeff Lemire revisits the classic tale in The Nobody, and Griffen still can't catch a break.

While the core premise remains the same--Invisible Man turns recluse in a small town as he tries to cure his condition--The Nobody is less a thriller and more a character study. Griffen arrives in the town of Large Mouth clad in bandages, gloves, and creepy goggles. "Large Mouth" becomes apropos as the town is soon abuzz with theories as to who the stranger really is, and what he may be hiding. The local characters are all quirkily unattractive--hammerhead noses, sharp chins, and furrows--but deeply expressive.

Visual humor abounds, with plenty of quiet laughs thanks to Lemire's frank approach to Griffen’s concealment. He wears a broken-in baseball cap in an attempt to mesh with the blue-collar patrons at a local dinner but ends up looking like a frat-house mummy.

But The Nobody doesn't dwell on sight gags for long, as Griffen soon starts to succumb to his condition, as well as develop a bit of a drinking habit. He is plagued by nightmares, hauntingly rendered by Lemire, who makes great use of blue hues in this otherwise black and white collection. There is a recurring woman in Griffen's unconscious mind, and his present-day, questionable relationship with a 16-year-old local morphs into a liability.

Sure enough, bad things start to pile up as Griffen is visited by former colleague Kemp (whose character is more akin to the Universal film version of The Invisible Man than Wells's book), and trouble brews in the minds and accusations of a few locals. Lemire's storytelling moves briskly, pairing slightly off-kilter with his visuals. The panels take their time, allowing for long, leisurely beats. Likewise, Griffen's dreams are feverish yet patiently illustrated. Readers will know how the story ends, but the gaps are where it thrives. The answers here are as elusive as Griffen's cure.


P.S. Jeff Lemire fans are sure to have a rewarding summer, as Top Shelf plans to reprint his entire Essex County Trilogy into one 500+ page hardcover (or trade paperback) later in August.

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