Review by Graham Johnstone
Following the success of Jimmy Corrigan, Ware produced more long form slice of life graphic novels, Rusty Brown, and then Lint, which is complete in Acme Novelty Library 20, a beautiful cloth bound, gold embossed hardback.
It’s the birth to death (literally!) story of Jordan Lint seen through his eyes. The pictures progress from abstract colours and shapes, to images with identity labels: tree, car, momma, dad. Then there’s sounds that become words. Eventually the images resolve into Ware’s distinctive style.
Lint’s childhood experiences become significant as we follow him through the years. He encounters death early: first (as a toddler) an ant, then on the next page a funeral. He doesn’t know what’s happening, and runs around tearfully. This is only eight pages in, and the content to this point could be held as a demonstration piece in the language of comics, but that does a disservice to the emotional and perceptual depth. We follow Jordan through starting school, rebelling against discipline, trying to imagine girls and make sense of what they’ve heard about the secret world of adults.
As the years pass and Jordan’s outlook matures the pages become more detailed to reflect this. It’s not unusual for Ware to compress thirty panels on a page, with large panels where they’re needed, to introduce characters, followed by a set of smaller panels acting out conversations. Each page is a work of art in itself, with at least one stand-out image, amongst the increasingly tiny panels.
Ware’s artwork is diagrammatic, almost systematic. He follows his own set of rules: line drawings with no hatching or shading, avoiding exaggerated perspective, everything is face-on flat or else 45 degree angles. Colours are flat but subtle, with recognisable palettes for specific pages or scenes. It never becomes dull, and there’s always some new element he has to render in that style: moulded plastic school chairs with the little half-desk; a Chopper bicycle, a 1970s car, a recording studio, a party at a kidney shaped pool… When he steps beyond his own rules it always seems like a conscious act. Lesley is rendered at the most realistic end of Ware’s style, with realistic features, compared to Jiordan with his flat circle eyes. It as if she is more real, more alive, and even Jordan can see it.
Things seem to be going Jordan’s way. He’s achieving his goals, while other things fall around him. He finds love, ‘finds himself’, wants more and gets it at a cost. His children grow up and we see how they are affected by earlier events in the story. There’s so much in here: college fraternities, football (American), rock music, each dealt with in a single self-contained page, and all taking forward this life story.
Superficially this is similar to Jimmy Corrigan, but it’s a further progression for Ware. Visually, he has expanded his diagrammatic style to be more realistic in places, and pushed his layouts even further. While Corrigan and Rusty Brown are if not admirable, at least sympathetic. Lint’s a harder job. Ware depicts his life and self with unflinching and forensic accuracy, without forcing our response. In passing it gives us a portrait of fifty years in America – more or less the second half of the 20th Century.
This is a brilliant creator at the top of his game. It’s hard to find anything to criticise, or a reason why anyone interested in graphic novels about real human lives could be disappointed by this.