45 – Andi Ewington

This isn’t a graphic novel in the traditional sense. Not like all those I have read previously. It is however, absolutely brilliant. It’s kind of an illustrated epistolary novel.

Imagine our world, but where a rare gene can give people super powers. The kind of powers we read about in comics every day. A journalist is expecting his first child and there is a one in a million chance that his child will have that rare Super-S gene. He decides to interview people of different ages and backgrounds, from all over the world that have superpowers. This way he can get an idea of the life his family and child could expect.

What follows are forty-five interviews with super people, their parents, spouses, children and people with a professional interest in them. As this is set in our world all the problems, issues and trauma that accompany these powers pour forth. Examples are choosing a name which hasn’t been copyrighted, being bullied at school, managing a secret identity, raising children, and obviously saving people. It is like Astro City but in a much grittier, documentary style way.

Each person gets a page to respond to questions or speak their mind. Most of these stories are tragic, or at least complex, as it seems the Super-S gene brings at least as much detriment as it does benefit. We get to do a lot of reading between the lines as these interviews betray much more about the speaker than they realise. There are also recurring threads woven through these stories painting a very detailed picture of the world they live in. A name or event will crop up in a number of stories. The mysterious XoDOS corporation and its hidden agenda being the prime example.

These interviews, that appear in transcript form, are exceptionally well written and you do get the sense that each is really the words of a completely different character. Although there isn’t the traditional sense of narrative as in a novel there is a feeling of progression. As we learn more and more about the world, and the forces and politics within it, the tiny breadcrumbs dropped into story begin to mount up. They are placed in a particular order for a reason and there are key themes and clues we learn to look for like a literary Where’s Wally. As well as getting to know each interviewee we also learn about the journalist and his imminent child.

Each one page interview transcript is accompanied by a matching page of art. Sometimes this is a single image and sometimes a collage or montage of multiple illustrations of the person being interviewed. Each of these 45 images is done by a different artist making them all as distinct as the subject they depict.

This is bold and powerful work and really represents out of the box thinking. The deeper you dig and closer you study this work the more ideas and themes you unearth. It rewards you for not being a passive reader and going through a second time with the benefit of your experience feels very different. The author lists World War Z and Marvels as two works that influenced him and you can immediately see why. But this certainly isn’t a ripoff, it is a fresh take on the stagnant superhero subject matter.

It is innovation like this from first time authors that we need. It deserves a Double Thumbs Up!

83/282.

Tomorrow: Criminal: Coward – Ed Brubaker

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