Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth

by Chris Ware

This is an incredible, and incredibly complicated, piece of work. On the surface, Ware's novel seems simple - a lonely and socially maladjusted guy, with a domineering mother, accepts an invitation to stay with the father he never met. Running parallel to this story is the story of Jimmy's grandfather, also a Jimmy, who had a difficult relationship with his own father in turn of the century Chicago.

Ware's characters all have trouble communicating, misread situations, and stumble through life. He is excellent at writing stilted, awkward dialogue, and there are many places where the reader cringes for these characters.

The structure of the book is complex; scenes jump around without a lot of exposition, and the page layouts are unconventional. Ware's art is quite simple, and for some reason he avoids portraying the faces of characters other than the Jimmys and their fathers. There are a lot of people who talk into their shoulders... The draftsmanship of the larger panels, especially the ones portraying the World's Fair or the small town where Jimmy's dad lives, are remarkable.

This is a highly eccentric piece of work, and a very rewarding one.

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