by Jeff Lemire
Genre: Graphic Novel
Published by Vertigo (DC Comics)
Date Of Publication: July 7th 2009
Many writers (myself included) make an attemtp at some point to take an established story and tell their version of it. We like the challenge of trying to take a well known piece of literature, and retell it in such a way that we make it our own. Unfortunately for many people (again, including myself) our success in this arena is minimal or simply non-existent. The trick in such an endeavor is to find that balance between respecting the original author and their work without sacrificing yourself or being afraid to take those chances that are not only necessary, but crucial to the validity of such a work. Without that balance, the work will either be simply a bland summary of the original, or will be so far removed from it that it becomes unrecognizable. That balance comes through every page of Lemire's work with such ease, it puts my meager attemtps to shame.
The Nobody is a reimagining of the classic novel The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. It is the story of John Griffen, a drifter clad head to toe in bandages, who finds himseslf settling in the town of Large Mouth, "Home Of The World's Biggest Bass!" Large Mouth, your typical small town, doesn't know how to react to the spectre that has come to inhabit their community. Griffen, not obtuse to the effect his presence has on the townsfolk, keeps to himself and tries not to bother anyone, preferring to remain in his room, with only brief excursions outside for food and fresh air.
Being like most small towns, the gossip flows as freely as cheap diner coffee, and despite his intentions of styaing out of the public eye, he is frequently beset by cool indifference at best, if not overt suspicion and hostility. Only Vicki, daughter to the local cafe owner and the narrator of the story, makes any attempt to befriend him. She alone makes an attempt to know the man, rather than ponder and gossip over the enigma he represents. She brings him food, company, and friendship. The bond that grows between them is quite touching.
But things have a habit of changing, of refusing to go according to plans, however well laid, and Griffen's past catches up with him. This sets into effect a string of events that turn the townsfolk (who after a long enough time have finally begun to ignore Griffen, allowing him to blend in) into a cacophonous mob howling for his head, all over what is ultimately a misunderstanding.
Though Griffen is far from either the heroic OR monstrous ends of the spectrum, he illicited a number of strong reactions from me. Pity or anger, I felt for him, for the bad things that happened to him, whether they were consequences of his actions or simple circumstance. Despite all that occurs, you can't help but have sympathy for him.
The text of the story is complemented perfectly by he art. Lemire is one of my favorite comic artists working in the industry today. With simple black and white drawings (he uses only a shade of blue in lieu of traditional shading technique) and a minimum of unnecessary detail, he creates characters every bit as strong visually as they are in the narrative.
Even Lemire's use of panels is flawless. He knows just when and how many to use, what size and shape, and moves perfectly from a single full-page image, to a number of small, quick moving panels. These then meld, within the same page, into an intriguing mosaic shot.
Story: 4.5 out of 5
Art: 4.5 out of 5
Overall Rating 4.5 out of 5