Ex Libris

Uncivilized. Oct. 2021. 106p. ISBN 9781941250440. $29.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
A person reeling from a vaguely described trauma takes refuge in a small room with nothing but a duffel bag of their belongings, a bottle of tequila, and a bookshelf full of comic books to keep them company. This character isn’t really into comics, but their need for a distraction compels them to pull a few off the shelf. The first is a volume entitled Escape; it follows a man who is fully aware he’s inside a comic book, from which he attempts to break free. The next is about a man stranded in the desert, with no idea how long it’s been since he arrived. In quick succession, our protagonist in the room encounters manga, a philosophical treatise, a hard-boiled detective tale, superhero comics, Tales from the Crypt–style stories, and more. As thematic links between the comic books become more and more apparent, the trauma plaguing our protagonist comes into focus and forces them to wonder whether they’ve lost their grip on reality or stumbled across the key to moving on with their life.
VERDICT Madden (99 Ways To Tell a Story) displays a keen mastery of numerous visual and narrative styles. A formally inventive, deeply emotional tale, reminiscent of Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler.
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