Friday, March 27, 2009

Comic Review: Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on EarthJIMMY CORRIGAN: THE SMARTEST KID ON EARTH - Cover Imageby Chris Ware

The title is a bit of a misnomer, as the story is about three consecutive generations of men named Jimmy Corrigan, they are only children in flashback, and none of them seem particularly bright. The story does, however, take place on Earth.

Jimmy the third, who is our true protagonist here, is a 36 year old loser without any social graces, still attached to his mother's apron strings like they were his umbilical cord. His life is a monotonous and joyless routine--wake up, go to work, call mom, go to sleep, wake up, go to work, call mom, go to sleep--until he gets a message from his long-estranged father, requesting that they finally meet. After much debate, he flies out to meet him under a thick veil of secrecy.

Their reunion is awkward to say the least, filled with long silences, snifflings, and shuffling feet. Neither are quite sure how to act, as one has never known a father and the other has never known a son. The awkwardness only increases when "little" Jimmy meets his grandfather, whose relationship with his own son was always less than healthy.

Three generations of men. Three generations of Jimmy Corrigans, each one a heartbroken mess of a man who wants to amend the past, but has no idea how. A series of casually-linked events trudges the minor plot along, but this graphic novel isn't about plot. It's about the characters, and for every step forward we take in the story, we take another step deeper into their past, and another step deeper into their minds.

With the frequent crossing from modern day to different eras of the past, and from reality into dreams and fantasies, it's sometimes difficult to keep track of when--and where--you are. But all scenes blend together to form a melancholy melange of emotion and experience, overlapping so much that they become one and the same. If all three Jimmy Corrigans weren't still alive, one might assume that there was only one, reincarnated into three different lives.

The artwork is phenomenal, carefully and obsessively constructed. It sometimes appears deceptively simple, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. And the details are plentiful and painstaking.

Jimmy Corrigan is melancholy, disturbing, and more than a little depressing. But not only that--it's also quite brilliant. Read it, love it...then read it again.


1 comment:

  1. I remember picking up the first issue of The Acme Novelty Library at Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica, California when I was seventeen. It had a profound impact on me — that such powerful storytelling could be accomplished through such simple drawings was a bit of a revelation. Your post reminds me that I should go back through those old issues and give them another read. Good stuff.

    If you haven't checked it out, the latest issue of The Acme Novelty Library, #19, is fantastic. It contains one of the best Science Fiction/Horror stories I've read in a while and the whole thing gets even creepier when it's connected back to the story's protagonist, Rusty Brown.


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