Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Commentary Track

Wilson is Daniel Clowes’ most formally sedate work -- none of the jostle of comic-strip conventions overloading and subverting each other and transcending the whole -- but its one-style-per-page program brilliantly conveys the book’s same-shit-different-day theme while not drawing attention to Clowes’ technical mastery the way it could. Wilson is also the author’s most emotionally cool work, though it quickly mounts up to make Ennis & Conner’s The Pro seem cheery and redemptive. Clowes hits the narrative pinnacle and natural nadir of everyman memoir comics, from Charles Schultz to Chris Ware, with his middle-aged ne’er-do-well main character’s monologues of menopausal self-delusion. Though Clowes’ first graphic novel not previewed or serialized in his long-running Eightball publication, Wilson is nonetheless hacked into Sunday-strip-style individual pages throughout, each ending on some gallows-hilarious outrage or symphonic thud of futility and signifying the stifled momentum of the myopic hero’s existence -- Wilson has about six panels to figure it out, and then the whole damn things starts over again. There is “story” aplenty, including some high crimes that still reflect Wilson’s low achievement, but the center is always the inert soliloquies at Wilson’s hypercritical yet unseeing eye of the storm. The star of this book is too clueless to be quietly desperate, but Wilson is a classic of noisy, eerie calm.

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