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Can something be good if it is incomplete? In the comic book reader’s world, it’s a problem we deal with all the time, and one that I’ve mentioned more than once. Usually this question spawns from a good comic being cancelled before the completion of a story arch, or through a failure on the artist’s part to finish the work (Kevin Smith, I’m looking at you, Mr. Daredevil/Bullseye). But a unique thing is to have a work that is supposedly a finished product, but to still have that incomplete feeling permeate the book. Such is the case with AiT/PlaNELar’s Nobody.

Writers Alex Amado and Sharon Cho have crafted a story that combines several genres of story, including mystery, gothic, and horror, all around the character called Nobody. Actually, the character goes by the name Jessica Drake (sounds like Spiderwoman, no?) and she is a paranormal investigator in a world where demons continually break through to the human world, through summoning or other means, and regular human beings dabble in black magic. She is also possessed of the unique ability to change her facial features at will, to match whomever she needs to be. She’s the ultimate disguise artist.

On the job one night, Jessica is asked to break up a demonic ritual and when she fails to rescue the human sacrifice, she takes out those who had done the sacrificing, preventing the summoning of a major demonic presence. Now that presence seems to be haunting Jessica, all while a fresh string of murders brings her back to her old home of New Orleans, in order to attempt to stop a serial killer taking young children’s lives. Jessica has no idea that every step she takes is marked, watched, and moved by a more malevolent being than she has ever dealt with before and she has no idea that she may actually be the next victim.

Amado and Cho’s story is rather good and their writing style and dialogue ring true and interests the reader, but there are problems with the narrative, most of which stem from the overall sense that this comic is meant to be set-up for another story. While we get a feel for the character’s personality through the narration and the dialogue, we know very little about the character’s past.

What is strange is that Amado and Cho place small bits of backstory into the text, revealing in bits and increments Jessica’s past but never giving a full and satisfactory history of the character or the Nobodys, a seemingly mystical sect of supernatural humans. In a serial comic, this would be great because the reader would have future issues in which these stories could be told, but this is the only collection of Nobody stories, with no seeming future for them. The series was originally published by Oni Press, and did not do overly well before AiT/PlaNETLar picked up the trade collection for publishing. It’s been through two printings and there’s no seeming buzz from these creators to put out a sequel. This is a problem because the book seems written in anticipation of future stories; the hints regarding Jessica’s past but no hard truths, the establishment of a truly malicious antagonist with no actual confrontation with the character, and the overall loss of the story arc to these future suggestions.

When you read this graphic novel, you almost want to get done with the actual story arc and skip ahead to the confrontation between Jessica and the demonic hordes, or even to the explanation of the history of Nobody. The actual plot becomes incidental to the questions raised, and left unanswered, by the narrative, which I would applaud in a book with a future, but not in a done-in-one collection. The fact that Amado and Cho do so well keeping the story together with all of these problems shows their talent, but they’ve lost their story in their zeal to give the reader too much information too soon, and with no answers to the questions they raise.

The art by Charlie Adlard is also pretty well done, though not helped by the narrative. His style is black and white, heavy on the inks and with a scratchy quality that suggests Frank Miller influences. His lines are soft when dealing with facial features and anatomical work, making his characters look real enough and he has an eye for panel placement, using traditional, long, and square panels intermittent when it suits the tone. He is also quite good at pacing the story and using his panels to control the flow of time. There are times when his transitions are too quick; I’m reminded of one scene where we go from a bathroom scene to “A Week Later,” on top of a building that also happens to be a dream sequence. It was jarring and a little too quick. His character designs are fine, but he excels at illustrative suggestion with one of his characters, whose name will not be revealed in order to save those who read it from spoilage, but look at the visual suggestion of the guys surrounded with flies and you’ll understand how it fits the character to a tee.

Nobody has all the makings of a damn good comic, and I’ve heard rumors that it has been looked at once or twice for television production, but the story they’re not telling, but hinting at, seems much more interesting. Consequently, the reader is bored by the story he or she is reading in comparison to the one he or she could be reading. It’s an accidental sabotaging of their narrative, and Amado and Cho should really think about writing a sequel, because I’m sure another $12.95 would not be much to ask for what promises to be a better comic. This comic is still good and enjoyable to read to an extent, but the story we could be reading could be great.


Robert Sparling

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