Fantagraphics Graphic Novel Review: Patience (2016)

Michelle reviews the new Clowes graphic novel, Patience. 

The first panel in Daniel Clowes' newest comic Patience opens with an interior shot of a vagina with a penis ejaculating inside. While shocking, this is just the raw beginning of one of the best sci-fi time-travel stories I have read in a long time. I have a soft spot for media that involves time traveling--one of my all time favorite movies is Primer (2004) an intelligent and fascinating take on the subject. Clowes is most famous for his graphic novel Ghost World (1993) which was adapted into critically acclaimed indie film in 2001. His writing is delightfully weird, but always relatable and his cartoonish art style lends a whimsical air to his stories. Patience is his first comic after a five year hiatus so it was highly anticipated by his fans. 

The story centers around a woman named Patience who is involved with a generally affable man named Jack Barlow. They have just discovered that a baby is on the way and are worrying about things most couples fret about: money, their current living situation, and whether they will make good parents. Unfortunately, a terrible incident shatters all of their dreams with Jack being powerless to stop it. Like many other stories of this nature, Jack eventually comes upon the ability to time travel back to the past where he hopes that he can alter the events to have a happier outcome. As always, time travel can get messy and things do not always pan out the way Jack anticipates.

I was reminded of an underrated Spanish film called Timecrimes (2007) in which a man tries to continually fix an event by traveling back in time only to make it worse and worse every time he completes a loop. Jack is messing around with the very fabric of space and time which threatens to tear his mind apart due to him experiencing cognitive dissonance. There is also some reference to the Novikov self-consistency principle which states that a time traveler's actions were always part of the time line and they are merely part of a circular loop that they cannot escape from. None of this is explicitly stated in the story, but rather hinted at in subtle ways. Though there is a lot of intriguing sci-fi stuff going on, the main love story between Patience and Jack is not ignored and is touching in a weird way. We all know the feeling of regret and have at one time or another wished we could travel back in time and do things differently.

This is one of Clowes' more colorful books and the latter half especially is filled with strange psychedelic splash pages. He has a deceivingly simple art style but an incredible attention-to-detail that makes examining each panel closely a must. I always associate his style with being the quintessential "indie" look. I can see how some people might not enjoy it, as it can looks a bit skewed and out of proportion, but I think it adds a lot of character to the story. There is some great paneling work and the narrative flows from page to page consistently. Although the plot isn't anything too groundbreaking there were definitely some twists and turns that the reader won't see coming.  Patience was worth the long wait for fans and though it isn't as outstanding as some of Clowes' earlier comics, it's still a considerable addition to his body of work.

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-Michelle Kisner