Recommended Reading: Richard McGuire’s Here

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Richard McGuire’s Here imagines, in the pages of a comic, the same thing that I often have: what happened here, in this spot – our house, our town, the grocery store, the lake, the highway – one hundred years ago, one thousand years ago, one hundred thousand years ago? What did it look like? Who, or what, stood in the same spot as I do now, in the year 2016, on the brink of the year 2017? What did it look like before Europeans set foot on these shores? What did it look like before any humans lived here at all? Who lived here? Fell in love here? Died here?

Looking out from my own window, I often imagine what people have stood in the same spot as I do, looking up into the sky, or down onto the yard which stretches out to a small lake. And it is not only at home that I think this, but at work, or when I travel as well.

I do not believe this to be a terribly common type of thinking – or at least, it does not border on obsession for most people – but regardless, McGuire’s beautiful book, as all one’s favorite books do, feels as if it were written directly for me, personally.

The book takes place viewed from one angle. Often, this view shows us a living room. Sometimes it is painted different colors. A year – 1957, for instance – is set in the top left corner. But then other windows open in the living room. Some of these boxes show us other times, with other people – or maybe the same people, only aged – in the living room. Other boxes show us a forest. Or a view of another house, up to the right, in the distance. Some show Native Americans trading with European colonizers. Some show dinosaurs. Or dancing. Or melting ice cream. Or family disputes.

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McGuire orchestrates these scenes in a way that sometimes seems random, only to have the various random instances begin to line up, to harmonize, in a kind of symphony of time. He has taken brief moments from the years and years of time that have passed here, in this spot, and given them meaning through their mosaic juxtaposition with other, disconnected moments. Divorced from the context of their time, these moments gain force and sublimity when placed alongside other, disconnected images because they establish a kind of fraternity between all these people, and all these slices of time, which are separated by degrees on the linear spectrum of space-time. Looping back and forth between past, present, and future, McGuire demonstrates the connectedness of everything not through some corny anecdote about all these people being related, or all of them remembering everything that has happened in this spot (they surely don’t, as they are attached, like all of, primarily to their own existence) but through the simplicity of shared, finite space which stands in contrast to the infinite march of time.

McGuire illustrates the book to reflect this. The living room is solid, blocks of color and definite lines. But the people who move through it are often fuzzy, not quite defined. And the further into the past we go, the more the people, and the space itself, begin to blur. The space itself (sans living room) becomes a lawn with a scribbled house in the distance. Then, further back, a forest, which becomes murkier and murkier as we are transported further into the past, until it becomes primordial ooze, ill-defined space, but still our space, the space we see when we look into the living room. In the future, the house is gone. Overtaken by the ocean. Then dried out, but unlivable. Then slowly but surely, life emerges again.

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A late foray into the future: where a group of tourists enter the frame, led by a guide who begins to explain some customs of the 21st century – the carrying of wallets and keys, etc. – and then uses a device which gives the onlookers a view of the past, a view not dissimilar from the one McGuire has given us in the pages of his comic. This breaks, somewhat, the spell of the book – as if McGuire is trying to explain the magic of these windows into the past and future. For a moment, the imaginative and metaphysical experience of watching the pages of time flip, seemingly at random, is understood as merely a function of some future device, meant to intrigue bored tourists. But then that window collapses, and the chorus of voices, the painting of rooms, the noise of television and radios, the waves of future seas all come crashing in again overwhelming the tourists (of which we are now one) with the weight of time and the countless lives lived in these brief windows into the past and future.

McGuire’s book is a kind of miracle in that I cannot imagine it taking any other form. He uses the medium of comics to do something only comics can do – utilizing the boxy frames so often associated with comics to stunning effect. It is an elegy and a celebration of time and space and the moments we find together in the madness of the here and now, and the moments that led up to this one, and the infinite moments that will follow our forgetting.

 

Savings Bin Sunday: Time Warp #1 (One-shot)

Today my weekly trip to the local savings bin yielded me Time Warp #1 (One-shot) put out by Vertigo comics. Time Warp is a collection of short stories revolving around a similar theme: Time (as the name might suggest). This title Boasts a star studded creative team featuring the talents of, Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Jordie Bellarie, Peter Mulligan, Dan Abnett and the list goes on. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed a short comic form. I feel like it gives the writer enough time to bring an idea into the readers mind, but leaves enough to the imagination that the reader can draw their own ideas from it. I also enjoy when comics explore the idea of time, and time travel. I feel like comic books are a great medium to really delve deep into the nooks and crannies of the idea. This is exactly what Time Warp does.

Time Warp is a collection of nine short stores, all about 9-10 pages long. For sake of length
I am only going to review 2 of these stories. I will give a brief synopsis, an analysis of story and art of each story, and impact value of the comic for me. So let’s begin.

It’s Full of Demons (Story: Tom King, Art: Tom Fowler)

-There’s no such thing as Demons (Paula)

This story opens up on a field in 1901 where a boy and a girl are playing  pretend war. The boy, who’s name is Addie, pretends to soot his sister, Paula repeatedly. Out of nowhere a time portal opens up and a strange figure in an orange futuristic suit steps out. The orange suited figure yells something in German and shoots the small boy in front of his sister. Later she swears to her father that demons did it. To which he responds there are no demons. The story skips ahead to 1935 and we find that Paulas family has admitted her into an insane asylum. While she is receiving Shock Therapy she hears the guards talking about the impending threat of Russia and a vote on a mysterious League of Nations. The story again skips ahead to 1946 and Russia has surrendered.at the same time Paula has escaped and the scene is of her on the street yelling at the parade that it’s full of demons, that her brother Addie told her so. The last scene we see is set in 1956 and Paula is an old woman, she is watching a television program in which Eisenhower is being interviewed about the success he has achieved as the head of the league of nations. Eisenhower goes on to say that peace isn’t attained in a moment but rather it takes millions coming together. All the while Paula stands on her chair and fastens a rope to the ceiling. We see that her landlord is banging on the door saying she can’t stay unless she pays. In the last frame Eisenhower says “We have, all of us, earned this peace” as Paula takes her own life and the landlord yells out “Miss Hitler, Miss Hitler, you must pay”.

The story and art in this one were fantastic. The unveiling at the end that the boy who was killed was actually Adolph Hitler blew me away. The theme of who would it affect if you changed the past was very intriguing. The art was solid and kept me visually entertained and interesting. I also liked the touch of the bright orange suit on the time traveler, it provided a nice contrast to the rest of the coloring (excellent work once again by Jordie Bellaire).

I give this short comic 8.5/10

R.I.P (Story: Damon Lindelof, Art: Jeff Lemire)

-I always thought being eaten by a dinosaur was the coolest way to die (Rip)

This comic opens up on the title character Rip running away from a T-rex. We learn that Rip is a time master and that his time machine was somehow damaged and he is stuck in prehistoric earth with no way to escape and a T-rex hot on his heals. What we also learn is that while Rip thinks being eaten by a dinosaur is the coolest way to die, he’s not ready to die just yet. All hope seems lost though until he runs into a slightly older (and clean shaven) version of himself. This version of himself helps him ford a river to elude the T-rex for slightly longer and reminds him he needs to travel back to this time to help himself cross a river in the future after a big quake or the fabric of the space time continuum will be thrown off. Rip of course agrees with Rip (why would he not?), and continues fleeing from the T-rex. He then runs into a slightly older, older version of himself who gives him a repel gun to scale a large wall to try to evade that darn T-rex still. He tells Rip he needs to come back to this time at a specific date. Rip scales the wall, thinking he has at last evaded the T-rex. It turns out that this T-rex can also scale walls and is traveling up it in pursuit of Rip. Rip turns around and runs into another version of himself, this time as an old man. The old man version of himself lets him have his time capsule, to which young rip says “But there will be two of us and one sphere, that would be a paradox we can’t both go” to which old Rip replied “When I was in second grade a bunch of us used to ask ourselfs what was the coolest way to die. I didn’t even have to think about it: Eaten by a dinosaur”. The old rip turns toward the dinosaur and says the last words of the comic “I’m ready now”.

I really enjoyed this story. I felt like it was an analogy for life and time it’s self. We all have a dinosaur chasing us, and that’s time. We maybe able to elude it for awhile but eventually it will catch up with us and we will succumb to it. The story was well conveyed and put together by Damon Lindelof. It was concise and easy to understand. The Art work by Jeff Lemire was outstanding. The perfect compliment to the story telling. All in all this was a fantastic short comic that makes me want to find more things written by Damon Lindelof. While it was a little predictable, and lacked a huge wow factor ending it still was very enjoyable.

I give this comic a 7.5/10.

Of the 7 remaining stories I really enjoyed “I Have What You Need” by Gail Simone an Gael Bertrand, and “She’s Not There” by Peter Mulligan, and M.K. Perker. Those two I would rate a 6.5/10.

Overall Time Warp #1 was a fun pick up from the savings bin. It was a bit of a surprise because I did not expect to like it nearly as much as I id. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fine story telling, Sci-Fi, time travel, or adventure.

-Andrew Horton