By Jeff Lemire
From Vertigo Comics
The Nobody is an ambiguous thriller, and rainy-day reading ripe with mad scientists, senile coots, disobedient daughters, and inscrutable biddies.
The Nobody tells the tale of John Griffen; a mysterious scientist whose horrific accident drives him away from civilization, and into a small fishing town. Mutilated by a horrific experiment gone awry, Griffen keeps his visage and extremities hidden with medical wrap, rarely leaving his motel room. In a town of 754 residents, he comes as close to a celebrity as they get, and as such party to just as much gossip.
Sixteen year old Vickie is the only town resident less interested in the gossip, and more interested in the mystery man himself. Sensing a kindred soul, lost and isolated in their desolate village, she and Griffen form a friendship, the kind of which the world can never understand.
Of course, there’s also the matter of Griffen’s great secret, and the motives behind his perpetual veil. Are the townsfolk right? Is he a threat to their quiet living? And what exactly does he have to hide?
That’s all setup, but the real hook of Jeff Lemire’s The Nobody is that (if the completely bandaged face hasn’t tipped you off yet), it’s the story of an invisible man. It actually takes the classic story of The Invisible Man, retouches it, and reshapes it into a something of a parable, reminiscent of the way Pinocchio ’s story is constantly reworked and modernized to suit different audiences and story platforms. It’s a flexible story with universal thematic touchstones.
The most striking aspect of this latest Vertigo OGN is the single-tone coloring. In a style evocative of Image’s Casanova, (a good thing to evoke), Lemire sets the whole story to black, white, and a haunting skyish blue. This choice works well for the story, as it gives it the texture of a black and white film in a way a black and white comic actually wouldn’t. It does well to play up the story’s classical thriller stylings.
And thrill it does. Despite his affliction, left to himself, Griffen poses a threat to no one. It is the provocations of the world around him that set things on their dangerous course. The key to a story’s dynamic tension is the balance of immediate dangers with impending ones. This story keeps adrenaline high, even in its quiet moments. Even when Griffen and Vickie’s relationship is harmless, it still fosters a situation dangerous to then both.
Lemire’s artwork absolutely delivers in this piece. Moody and off-kilter, it serves the story perfectly, playing up the caricatures among the town. Despite being broken up into chapters, the story works perfectly as an OGN, as it allows for an amount of patience to the story that keeps things dramatic. As a bonus, each chapter is broken up with a classically crafted comicbook style cover, each giving its own wink to comic history and genre.
All in all, The Nobody is an enjoyably weird tale of tension and horror. It’s about the impossibility of keeping secrets in a small town, trust and distrust, and the scars each and every person struggles to keep hidden. Vaguely tragic, it marks a strong debut for Lemire at Vertigo, and a great new spin on a familiar story.