The Nobody by Jeff Lemire: I walked into a Newbury Comics, having not heard of the comic, and bought it on the strength of the cover. I got lucky, because this stark, forlorn, beautiful graphic novel takes the invisible man, David Lynch, a dab of noir, and mixes it with believable small-town angst and desperation. Here, the nobody reflects the crushing loneliness of all the characters and there are stretches of wordless panels that simply take your breath away.
So, after The Nobody, I picked up Jeff’s collected Essex County. Essex County is a tiny community in Ontario, Canada (and it’s where The Nobody was set as well). Three main stories deal with family issues that span decades and generations. The first story is about a super-hero obsessed little boy (who wears a mask and cape, and is bullied) raised by a distant and gruff uncle, finds secret companionship with a “slow” local. The second is about an older man reliving his estranged relationship with his brother while being forced into a nursing home. The third focuses on the nurse who cares for the old man, how she copes with the secrets of the town’s past and present. Again, like The Nobody, desperation mixes with a quiet dignity, and the stories filled with genuine emotion. Impressive stuff.
Luna Park by Kevin Baker (illustrated beautifully by Danijel Zezelj) concerns history as well. Both personal and global. Alik is a Russian ex-pat (he’d fought and witnessed atrocities in the Chechnya) now prowls Coney Island as a mob heavy. Alik and his girlfriend are addicted to heroin, and as their lives tumble toward violence, Alik re-lives nightmares from the past. It’s a heady mix of historical/ghost/noir.