GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Lab

Top Shelf: IDW. Mar. 2020. 176p. ISBN 9781603094610. pap. $19.99. Rated: Teen+. dystopian
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DEBUT A humanoid figure whose big round head is featureless, save for its remarkably expressive eyes, awakens in a dark gray cell—one of many, we soon discover, inside an infinitely vast laboratory. A mechanical arm plucks our protagonist from its cage and carries it to another area, where it is restrained as various colorful liquids are poured into both eyes. Upon being returned to its cell, our protagonist curls into a ball, miserable and degraded. When it awakens the next day, its eyes are a swollen mess. The mechanical arm comes again, but this time instead of having liquids poured into both eyes, our protagonist is subjected to numerous injections. The process repeats again and again, until one day it doesn’t. Conway’s debut is light on plot but packed with pathos and deeply affecting owing to her masterly visual storytelling. Each moment of our protagonist’s degradation is depicted at a snail’s pace over numerous panels and pages, highlighting the mechanical, repetitive process of this endless torture, building to an ending that is not quite cathartic but a relief nonetheless in that new possibilities are presented.
VERDICT An unsettling vision from an exciting and distinctly talented newcomer.

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