Fantagraphics. Oct. 2023. 106p. ISBN 9781683968825. $30. F
Clowes’s (Patience) long-awaited, genre-bending thriller begins with a young woman named Penny, who, upon becoming pregnant while her fiancé is off fighting in Vietnam, runs away and falls in with a group of bohemian artists. When her daughter, Monica, is just a few years old, Penny mysteriously vanishes; years later, an adult Monica becomes obsessed with finding her. After discovering evidence that her mother may have been involved with a cult dedicated to the belief that “our shared reality is a quasi-demonic fabrication designed to thwart individual fulfillment,” Monica tracks the group to their headquarters in an abandoned housing complex and applies for membership. That’s the throughline, leaving a whole lot out; much of Monica’s uncommonly difficult-to-summarize quest is revealed elliptically, through the perspectives of various characters with whom she crosses paths, in sequences evoking the tropes of a variety of genres, including teen romance, war, the crime thriller, and supernatural horror.
VERDICT Clowes’s formal ingenuity, meticulous attention to psychological and visual detail, and masterful sense of narrative and tone combine to create an emotionally resonant and unforgettable opus, reaffirming his place among the greatest storytellers of our time.
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