The Nobody, Jeff Lemire's reimagining of HG Wells' classic The Invisible Man, can seem aimless, slow and frustrating at times... but is also haunting, moving and a book that'll stay with you for a long time after reading.
The first project for DC's Vertigo imprint by Lemire, known for his indie series Tales From Essex County, The Nobody brings a quieter, less cynical sensibility to the line. This is the comic equivalent to a Bright Eyes record, with all the beauty and annoyance that that comparison suggests; there's a wonderful willingness to recognize stillness and melancholy at play in this book, but that's almost rendered toothless at times by what seems, at times, like a willful refusal to do the same to the darker side of human nature in anything beyond cartoony strokes that lack convinction... For all the danger hinted at throughout, moments that should come across as terrifying and alien instead seem weightless and dishonest.
(The plot of the book, although this isn't necessarily the most plot-driven book, is that Griffen, a man covered head to toe in bandages, arrives in the small town of Large Mouth and keeps himself to himself, much to the consternation of the townsfolk. When a series of crimes occur after his arrival, he becomes the main suspect, which leads to a confrontation with the failed experiments in his past as well as the local authorities.)
There's a lot to recommend in The Nobody; Lemire manages to perfectly conjure a feeling of bleak disconnection that perfectly matches his lead character's sensibility, transcending the intentionally-pulp nature of the plot (reinforced by the chapter breaks, which use pulp magazine and comic cover cliches to illustrate the story about to unfold). The ambiguous nature of the ending adds to this, allowing for both a straight-forward and an allegorical reading depending on the reader's taste, and bringing a greater weight to something that otherwise would be in danger of disappearing through its own introverted nature (Again, something that fits with the lead).
Lemire's art, scratchy and awkward in the best ways, may be the star of the book. It's simple enough to keep the reader's attention but detailed in all the right ways, especially the flashback/inkwash sequences and the evocative way he portrays the characters' environment (It's all about the negative space, especially the way Lemire shows the town of Large Mouth in the winter). There's something in particular about his characters - skew-wiff, imperfect and familiar - that keeps you engaged even when the writing threatens to lose itself in its own preciousness.
This is science fiction almost by accident; it's really a story about people after the science fiction, about what happens once the credits have rolled and everyone's left the theater. Whether it's a success in doing so, I'm still not sure. The Nobody is definitely an interesting book, and one worth reading, but days later, I'm still conflicted about whether or not it was actually a good one.
The Nobody is released July 8th in comic stores.