When someone we love dies life can change dramatically, but just how much isn’t always considered by other people around us. While one person must face new challenges, like parenting an orphaned grandchild, another may have to wrestle with their conscience. How people respond to grief and loss is the premise of No One Knows, a story set in Italy exploring the aftermath of one woman’s passing through the eyes of four people- a father, a partner, a child, and a medical professional.

Writer Salvatore Vivenzio focuses his narrative on how his cast struggles with the messy aftermath of a death and its long-term repercussions for them using an interweaving storyline. Introducing the cast in stages, he connects them to the deceased before later connecting them to each other. He observes that humans respond to death in different ways, some in anger, another in reflection, while others appear to self-destruct. One question is whether grief brings out new responses and flaws in us, or are they already present? Italy being a culturally religious country allows Vivenzio to study the role faith can play in times of despair, one person finding solace in the religious routine while another wrestles with why God would allow tragedy.

Artist Gianluca Nori fills his pages with imagery accentuating the resulting impact of death using a loose pen within neat and defined panels. There is a palpable sense throughout that death is forcing the players to face up to their own flaws and growing mortality with Nori using stark imagery to indicate the mental state of the cast. Mostly he uses soft pastel hues for a sense of sadness, but emphasises important landmark events for each character in black and white. Look closely and you’ll notice that the neat panel layout is frequently blurred a smidge, a reminder that the notion of an idyllic “perfect” life is no talisman against the fingers of tragedy. The only small reservation is that the illustrations lack motion, seeming more poised like snapshots of memories. On one hand it is reflective of how memories are stimulated at these times, and on the other hand it removes some power from the charged emotions the creators are trying to capture.

No One Knows is a beautifully forlorn tale that is perplexingly human and thought-provoking in its response to death, grief, and loss but remains hopeful that life will continue. The plot is straightforward and familiar, but this only makes it more relatable as no person goes untouched by the loss of a friend or family member. The themes take a bold reader because no one likes to think about death and dying, but those who brave it will find that Vivenzio and Nori have succeeded in creating that rare book that is both visually impressive and therapeutic.

This isn’t available via major online booksellers, but publishers Black Panel Press will be only too pleased to sell you copies via their website.