Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

The Land That Forgot Time

Posted by Don MacPherson on February 3rd, 2011

Memoir #1
“Memoir: Part One – … Long, Long Road”
Writer: Ben McCool
Artist: Nikki Cook
Letters: Tom B. Long
Cover artist: John Cassaday
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

It’s been more than two weeks since I posted any kind of review to the site, but it’s not because I haven’t had anything to write about. Other commitments — including (but not limited to) night shifts at work and middle-of-the-night baby-soothing sessions — have either kept me from my keyboard or sapped me of the energy I need to jot down some thoughts. But after a nice nap a few hours ago and a few spare minutes on my hands, I’m ready to sound off. One of the comics I’ve been meaning to write about is yet another interesting new release from Image Comics. My interest in its non-super-hero output has risen significantly as of late, and after seeing a short film online about Memoir, I dashed an email off to the manager of my local comic shop, asking that it be added to my pull list. While the book isn’t without its flaws, I’m looking forward to future issues. Writer Ben McCool has come up with a fascinating and chilling premise, and his creative partner-in-crime for this venture impressed with her black-and-white artwork. There’s been a lot of talk lately about a lack of diversity in the material available in the medium of comics, but I find the argument harder to swallow after I read an interesting and novel project such as Memoir.

Journalist Trent McGowan has decided to undertake a new project, opting to delve into a mystery that no one else has been able to solve. He travels to the small town of Lowesville, noted for a bizarre and unexplained event that robbed the entire populace of its memories. On the surface, the town seems to run smoothly, with everybody going about their business, but after interacting with a couple of the locals, it’s clear something is terribly wrong. The memory wipe is clearly hiding a dark, horrific secret — one involving murder and the macabre.

Artist Nikki Cook’s work on this comic book immediately put me in mind of the art of Ryan (New York Five, Local) Kelly. Her figures tend to be thin and even elongated in appearance, and that approach reinforces the eerie, haunted feel of the setting and its seemingly cursed residents. Cook’s style is a grounded one; the characters are fairly realistic in appearance, which brings credibility to the story. But she demonstrates she’s also able to render more gruesome imagery as well, as evidenced by the discovery in the latter part of the issue. The black-and-white artwork also serves this story of torment well.

Another visual strength of the book is the cover design. The logo is quite striking and effective, and it features elements that represent aspects of the plot succinctly. John Cassaday’s artwork also fosters an air of intrigue and mystery, and while it employs a dominant red color, it nevertheless captures the starkness of the black-and-white interiors.

I was immediately taken with the premise that serves as the foundation of Memoir, and the plotting has drawn me into the mystery quite effectively. There’s a wonderfully eerie, haunted quality to the community that serves as both the victim in this story and the antagonist. With its appropriately dark and gaunt figures, Memoir is a well-crafted comic — almost perfect save for one key element: its hero. Mind you, the journalist protagonist is perfect in his own way — he’s a perfect ass. He’s terribly obnoxious, egotistical and completely lacking empathy. I don’t care for him at all, and I really don’t see why McCool wants his audience to hate Trent so much. Another problem is that when he’s finally confronted with something truly horrific, his callousness disappears all too suddenly and he develops a heart. If he was truly the ambitious, opportunistic writer he was portrays as early in the issue, the grisly discovery later in the issue would likely serve to please him, as it would make his journalistic endeavor all the more juicy.

Fortunately, the strength of the premise of a town with no memories is more than enough to get me past the distasteful qualities of the main character. It’s the mystery that’s front and centre here, not the characterization of the protagonist. I would be pleased if McCool addresses his hero’s character in later issues. It’s possible the writer plans to offer some explanation for Trent as a study in extremes. 7/10

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