Thursday, July 16, 2009

Review -- "The Nobody"

DC Comics has a couple of minor characters who appear bandage-swathed in nearly all of their adventures — Rebis, the hermaphroditic energy being from Grant Morrison’s weird and wonderful run on “Doom Patrol,” and The Unknown Soldier, originally from “Our Army at War.” It’s a cool, if disconcerting, look.

Neither of those characters, unfortunately, appears in the new Vertigo hardcover written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire, creator of the “Essex County Trilogy.” Rather, the enigmatic protagonist calls himself “Griffen,” a name familiar to readers of H.G. Wells or, more likely, Alan Moore.

When Griffen, sporting bizarre goggles and wrapped from head to toe in weird bandages, arrives in the small town of Large Mouth, he evokes immediate suspicion. After he takes up residence in a run-down motel, a young waitress named Vickie tries to befriend him and gradually learns about the events that drove Griffen into seclusion. Meanwhile, a series of crimes ratchets up the level of distrust and paranoia among the locals.

Lemire’s scruffy black, white and blue artwork isn’t to my taste, and although I appreciate his feel for a tourist town in the thick of winter, I found the plot of “The Nobody” rather slow, pedestrian and predictable. I’ve seen the “caterpillar into butterfly” metaphor employed to greater effect elsewhere, and I wish there was more beneath Griffen’s bandages than, well, what I expected to be there.

If I had not received a review copy, I would begrudge the $19.99 cover price of “The Nobody.” If DC ever wants to do a new hardcover devoted to Rebis, though, I’ll be flinging cash at them.

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