Saturday, April 30, 2016


Dan Clowes is one of the most respected graphic novelists in the US, with such past successes as Ghost World, Wilson, and Mr. Wonderful. Clowes' many works tend to focus on disaffected, curmudgeonly, misanthropic, intelligent, and intensely introspective loners, as does his newest work Patience. The difference is that the protagonist Jack Barlow fell in love with a woman named Patience. The rub is that he loses her under tragic circumstances, but instead of merely being eaten up by his sorrow an opportunity opens up. He discovers a person who has discovered the secret to time travel, and so Barlow steals it and goes back to prevent the tragedy from happening.
Of course, nothing goes smoothly, and his interference causes all kinds of ripples in the time stream, and affects Barlow's memories and experiences. Also, he ends up going to different points in time, and he learns things about Patience and himself that perhaps would be better left unknown. Instead of turning into a fantastic sci-fi yarn, the book instead becomes a cerebral exploration of love, relationships, and the lengths that people will go to protect their loved ones. This book has all the potential to be something out of a Ditko Dr. Strange story or a James Cameron movie, but the narrative ends of being mundane and weirdly grounded. Still, this is a complex work that demonstrates a masterful grasp on artistry and storytelling, a well made book, but not one of my favorites by Clowes.

All of the reviews of this book I have read comment on its complexity, maturity, and evocative narrative. Etelka Lehoczky was very pleased with the fact that "Clowes does create another lonely, obsessed male character here, but instead of brooding endlessly over the woman he's lost, Jack does something to help her." Jacob Brogan called it "a surprisingly calm work, probably Clowes’ most confident and clear-headed book to date." Kathleen Rooney wrote, "The book's self-awareness and sympathy make it more than just an exercise in the mixing of genres, but it's in this unabashed mixing that Clowes creates a story that is as transcendent as it is upsetting — and affirming."

Clowes speaks about his inspirations and work on this book in this interview.

Patience was published by Fantagraphics Books, and they have a preview and much more here.

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