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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
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Robertson Davies
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Review: Here

Here - Richard McGuire

I wrote off Graphic Novels years ago. Clearly, the illustrated genre is dominated with do-gooders in costumes performing ridiculous feats and that's just not my thing. But to write off all graphic novels was perhaps a bit short-sighted of me. Likely, there are some fabulous stories I am missing out on because of my prejudice. So, in my continuing quest to open my mind, I have decided to finally give Graphic Novels a fair trial. Over the next few months, I intend to sprinkle several graphic novels into my normal reading fare. I suspect I shall find elements that confirm my suspicions that Graphic Novels are not for me, but I anticipate many pleasant surprises. First up, Here by Richard McGuire.

Here is a wonderful concept. This is a story about place. Throughout its 300 pages, the setting is a living room, from 3 billion years in the past, to 20,000 years in the future. Perhaps this isn't so much a story of place as it is about time. Time is the primary character here. Jumping back and forth in time erratically, each page highlights a specific year with many insets of what that same space looked like ten years earlier, 10,000 years earlier, thirty years in the future, and so on. Sparse in text, Here captures the mundane moments that make up our lives. It's a wonderfully fabulous idea, but trying to make sense of a story or piece the various fragments together is fruitless. At the very least, I hoped to track the house's occupants throughout several decades, to divine some continuity, but with only a few exceptions, I didn't see a thread connecting the years. Who occupies the house one year bears no resemblance to the occupant of the next year, and so on with the following year. With all the various pieces, it may just be that I missed linking elements, but it seemed to me that either this house has had many occupants, or the author didn't have a concrete history of the house's occupants in mind.

The illustrations were relatively simple and lacked some detail I would've loved to have seen. For one, in the room's two hundred years of standing, it was never once messy or cluttered. Not once, even when the occupants seemed to be primarily children, did I notice candy wrappers or used tissues or a stain on the carpet. Not once did the mantle become overpopulated with kitschy knickknacks and family photos. And there I go, over analyzing a comic book. Pssshhh.

So yeah, superb idea. Implementation was good, but not enough to win me over. Given the lack of a traditional story and my inexperience with the genre, I offer no rating or recommendation. I guess if you like books with pictures that are big on concepts, this is a satisfactory choice.

Superhero Count: One if you count a masked cowboy; two if you include Benjamin Franklin.