"Richard McGuire's Here is the story of a corner of a room and the events that happened in that space while moving forward and backward in time. The book experiments with formal properties of comics, using multiple panels to convey the different moments in time. Hundreds of thousands of years become interwoven. A dinosaur from 100,000,000 BCE lumbers by, while a child is playing with a plastic toy that resembles the same dinosaur in the year 1999. Conversations appear to be happening between two people who are centuries apart. Someone asking, "Anyone seen my car keys?" can be "answered" by someone at a future archeology dig. Cycles of glaciers transform into marshes, then into forests, then into farmland. A city develops and grows into a suburban sprawl. Future climate changes cause the land to submerge, if only temporarily, for the long view reveals the transient nature of all things. Meanwhile, the attention is focused on the most ordinary moments and appreciating them as the most transcendent"--
Here by Richard McGuire takes that concept of chaotic chronologies and fragmented memories and creates an intriguing, high-concept graphic novel that captures that shifting, fluidity of time. He does this by telling the story of what happens in one room, in one location, in one house throughout the ages. It's a weirdly compressed, claustrophobic focal point and setting, which is ironic because McGuire takes us traveling through time even as we stay within the walls of this room. We get snapshots—literally as if someone were standing in one spot and snapping photos—from every age imaginable: 1971, 1957, 1999, 100,097 BC, etc.; early man, the colonial period, the fifties, the seventies, the eighties, the 'present,' and so on. McGuire gives us easter egg glimpses of these moments and as the panels build, they build in temporal complexity too. You'll see one spot of the room set in 1933, and another set in 1979.
What's so thrilling about his visual style of storytelling is how the narrative busts out of the familiar left-to-right/up-and-down tracking. Your eye is forced to roam and—if you have a good visual memory or a knack for time traveling detective work—to keep track of all the different, ever-shifting moments. Time shifts not only year to year but over time within those years. To make things easier, McGuire uses consistent color schemes for particular time periods. The drawing is done with colored pencils and water color; in fact, it feels almost rushed in parts. Stylistically, I prefer more detailed and lush work, but aesthetics aside, this graphic novel is so conceptually innovative that it could have been drawn in stick figures and I'd still have been entranced.
Expect 300-plus pages of compounding, intertwining, and fused lifetimes and stories. There's a kind of echo-chamber aspect to it, too, that's hard to describe, a thrum that's supposed to embody life from both a historical and poetical standpoint, I think. It's both distant and intimate. The cast is an ensemble, so we're not meant to focus on just one POV. It's just us, I think, our viewpoint as readers.
Here is a bold vision, a matrix of histories and futures, something we never really take the time to grasp—the continuum of it all—and here it is tackled in a graphic novel of all things. This book will make you feel small—in a good way. Our individual place in time is just a combustible moment, and yet it matters. Places and things existed long before us and will go on and persist long after we're gone.
I grew up in a hundred-year-old house and now live in another one, different city, different state. I often wonder about the previous occupants and furnishings, most recently about those in the time of WWI. This book inspires me to turn my curiosity into action by looking at local historical records.
Here is a wonderful concept. This is a story about place. Throughout its 300 pages, the setting is a living room, from 3 billion years in the past, to 20,000 years in the future. Perhaps this isn't so much a story of place as it is about time. Time is the primary character here. Jumping back and forth in time erratically, each page highlights a specific year with many insets of what that same space looked like ten years earlier, 10,000 years earlier, thirty years in the future, and so on. Sparse in text, Here captures the mundane moments that make up our lives. It's a wonderfully fabulous idea, but trying to make sense of a story or piece the various fragments together is fruitless. At the very least, I hoped to track the house's occupants throughout several decades, to divine some continuity, but with only a few exceptions, I didn't see a thread connecting the years. Who occupies the house one year bears no resemblance to the occupant of the next year, and so on with the following year. With all the various pieces, it may just be that I missed linking elements, but it seemed to me that either this house has had many occupants, or the author didn't have a concrete history of the house's occupants in mind.
The illustrations were relatively simple and lacked some detail I would've loved to have seen. For one, in the room's two hundred years of standing, it was never once messy or cluttered. Not once, even when the occupants seemed to be primarily children, did I notice candy wrappers or used tissues or a stain on the carpet. Not once did the mantle become overpopulated with kitschy knickknacks and family photos. And there I go, over analyzing a comic book. Pssshhh.
So yeah, superb idea. Implementation was good, but not enough to win me over. Given the lack of a traditional story and my inexperience with the genre, I offer no rating or recommendation. I guess if you like books with pictures that are big on concepts, this is a satisfactory choice.
Superhero Count: One if you count a masked cowboy; two if you include Benjamin Franklin.
You need experiments like this to progress the comic art, and not all of them need to work.
The graphic format was the perfect vehicle for this.
Just a very cool idea, to present it this way.