After an explosive re-introduction of Tyler into their lives, the Narrator/Sebastian and Marla learn their kid has been kidnapped, and now it’s time to find him.
That’s some pretty thin plot development for a whole issue, which is somewhat disappointing after a strong opening last month that provided a lot of set up for setting and theme. This issue, then, doesn’t really add a lot of anything new. It rounds out that thinness with a few intense scenes, and the main characters do spend several pages talking to each other and not just themselves/support groups, which is nice. My favorite part would be the flashbacks to the funeral of the Narrator’s parents, and we see a mini-Tyler alongside him. Possible origin story, here? It feels to me, though, that there’s a momentum and force of direction demanded by the story, but the pacing is deliberately slower than that demand, a conscious choice by the authors that’s pleasantly frustrating.
There’s a considerable lack of visual techniques that were nearly overwhelming in the first issue, at least by comparison. Things are a bit more “basic,” here, as it were, but still as artistic, featuring a lot of juxtaposition and flashback and deliberate staging. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more confusing at times. What was the falling paper dropped by Marla, and is it the same as the prescription paper dropped by the Narrator? He doesn’t want hypnosis, but he does— or was this a different session? Why does Tyler visibly age when reflecting on the death of the Narrator’s parents? Who’s getting off whose porch, now? And which kid was reading the Bible and how was that “fraught?” Maybe the deliberate artistry, that conscious choice I noted, is getting a bit in the way of what I would think would be a better demand: clarity.
The art and the words are very intertwined, so when it works, it’s nicely seamless. The Narrator talking about packing becomes a display of clothing items, for example. Or the repeated panels of multiple marriages that show the pastor and the Narrator visibly aging as the only change; the way the Narrator points to himself (or would it be Tyler?) in the mirror. Sometimes, panels are just presented simply, without narration or dialogue, and are still quietly effective. It’s a level of synergy between words and pictures that’s really quite expertly done. It’s a reading experience that requires attention and reflection.
It’s a tease of a story, maybe, as it tells its tale in a deliberate pace and level of artistry that will make you read, reread, and consider. It’s definitely an intriguing comic that weaves both words and pictures and plays with non-linear storytelling and juxtaposition. Whether or not it will be a rewarding or satisfying read is still unclear at this point, but for now, I’ll settle with intriguing.