Midnight Nation – J. Michael Straczynski

This is a big book, a really big book. I’m not just talking about the three hundred pages, twelve issues, plus covers, plus extras either. This is big in concept, big in ideas and big in existentialism.

A cop investigating a mysterious homicide has his soul stolen and wakes up trapped between worlds. He must then begin a long journey to get back what he has lost. It’s a fantastic idea and although the whole “is this really happening, is he in a coma, what’s going on” has been done before, this is an expert execution. Despite the whimsical premise you are absolutely hooked within pages by the incredible dialog that Straczynski excels at.

The journey continues and becomes more and more abstract until you are treated to a metaphysical sermon about the nature of modern life and existence in general. Assuming you survive this thought summit the story glides to a neat conclusion. You might get lost along the way and probably won’t understand all or possibly any of it but you will certainly have to admit you have witnessed something rather profound. It’s the kind of art that people tell you is art but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

The graphics are really good and as there is an incredible amount of text the pictures work hard using every trick they can to break up the writing as much as possible. There are lots of views looking down, an angle that is rarely used in most comics, that proves very effective in communicating the character’s isolation in this strange new world. It really is worth going back to the book for a second read just to look at the variety of techniques in play here.

As well as the mighty story there is a one shot spinoff, all the sumptuous covers, and J. Michael Straczynski makes possibly the most personal and moving statement by another human being I have ever read as he describes the origin of this book.

This is Sandman sharpened into a mere dozen issues and delivering a razor sharp Double Thumbs Up!

147/218.

Tomorrow: Geoffrey the Tube Train and the Fat Comedian – Alexi Sayle

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