By Zak Edwards
July 22, 2009 - 19:53
Jeff Lemire’s continual rise to fame and critical acclaim is almost exactly like the stories he weaves; simple, relatively unremarkable, but completely filled with amazing moments discovered through these very qualities. The Nobody, a retelling of H.G Wells “The Invisible Man,” takes a fairly remarkable concept and creates a story which draws attention to the mundane and unremarkable. This is the magic Lemire can create. Fans of his Essex County trilogy will recognize the small town dynamics and the characters which inhabit his stories.
As mentioned, The Nobody is a story heavily borrowing from The Invisible Man by H.G Wells, to the point of a modernized re-imagining. The story is of a bandaged man, John Griffen, who comes to small town America to be alone to try to save himself from his previous ambitions and to atone for his previous sins. The story is mostly told through the eyes of a high school girl, Vickie, who befriends the man. Of course, the fact the invisible man, John Griffen, is almost entirely visible most of the time creates a dichotomy between himself and the others who are regularly visible. His secrets are all but exposed to the reader, his deeds, both those previous and those in the town, are almost all within the knowledge of the reader. It’s the secrets of the town folk which are under the surface, causing problems for both Griffen and the narrator, Vickie. Griffen remains a fairly passive character, having problems literally come to his doorstep as the town continues to be offset by his appearance. But what makes Lemire’s work so powerful is a ‘despite’ factor. Despite the sci-fi factor of his story being a major point, it is hardly a focal point. The ‘invisible man’ is visible almost one hundred percent of the time. His face is obscured, but his hidden emotions are revealed in many different ways and his story is the most complete given of the entire cast. Despite the invisible, Lemire manages to capture small-town dynamics, warts and all. The town is full of gossip, people doing stupid things, and a general understanding everyone’s a target to melodramatic accusations. And when the footsteps can be seen on the final pages leaving the town, one can see the family who had to move town because it became too much. In a way, Griffen represents the newcomer, the outsider who is there for a reason and can’t fulfill his purpose because of the closed system these towns work under, highlighted by the only non-white member of the cast, who is cast to the fringes of the town, unable to penetrate and is forced into isolation. All-in-all, “The Nobody” does exactly what the dust cover says, exposing the town over Griffen himself.
Lemire’s artwork stuns. Some pages become impossible not to simply try to absorb as much as possible. Specifically, the pages involving Griffen underwater are demanding of attention. As Griffen unravels under the depths, reaching out for his past regrets, it is hard to not feel as he does. Lemire can convey any feeling within a scene, and not just through his characters. The underwater panels feel desperation and guilt, not just look like it. If one opens themselves up to his non-verbal work, Lemire can have a powerful effect. As to be expected of his work, the scenes are very expressive. Characters wear their minds on the outside, not benefitting from Griffen’s bandages allowing for secrecy (which, as discussed, is almost unneeded). But these simply add to Lemire’s empathy to what he creates.
A masterpiece, Lemire continues to build on his abilities and only heads straight up. This is a man to watch in the coming months (with his Vertigo monthly series starting in September) and years.
Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15