HereOne of the great things about the graphic novel format is how flexible it is. A gifted creator can look at topics in unique ways that neither books nor cinema can approach. Richard McGuire’s Here is an example of stunning creativity and breadth of vision. He uses each two page spread to depict one physical spot at different points in time over hundreds of thousands of years. Within that larger picture, he frequently has smaller panels that represent different time periods in the same location. While this sounds like a constraint, McGuire is able to tell several subtle stories about time and space that end up being quite profound. He has created a true tour de force.

While it’s hard to describe any narrative structure, McGuire is able to use the juxtaposition of different years and events in the same space to comment on life. For example, one two page spread set in 2005 depicts a hard of hearing older man telling his son from a sick bed that he too will get old someday. On the opposite page is a smaller panel from 1964 of a group of people playing charades, possibly the same old man as a young man. In an even smaller panel from 2006, a bee is buzzing. All the panels refer to sound or the absence of sound and how we react to it. Many of these panels continue on other pages and stop in interesting places. Another two page spread examines all the mild put downs that were uttered in the house over the years like “geek” or “drip”. Several pages comment on losing things. It’s surprising and fascinating how many topics McGuire manages to touch on in this format.

McGuire’s artwork effectively conveys a sense of place as the perspective is from the same spot in the same room with the crease of the book acting as the corner of the room. Each two page spread employs a different color palate and they are muted throughout the book. This muted look adds depth and subtlety to what is going on in the pages. The color of the rooms impacts the whole panel. For example, the 1950s burgundy wall paper leads to an overall reddish look, while the 1970s mustard colored paint on the walls leads to a dark yellow tone. Some of the pictures look like watercolors and some are line drawings. Ultimately, the whole affair feels like a scrapbook or family photo album that is desperately out of order but appropriately themed, as if all your pictures of snow over the years were put together.

Here is a stunning graphic novel achievement that took many years to complete. Every public library with an adult collection should have this book. There is some swearing and some sex depicted, and the overall slow pace and contemplative nature of the work will most likely be enjoyed by adults. It represents a unique vision and should be read by any fan of the format.

by Richard McGuire
ISBN: 9780375406508
Pantheon, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: OT(16+)

  • Mark

    | He/Him Young Adult Librarian, Cedar Mill Library


    Mark Richardson is the Young Adult Librarian at the Cedar Mill Library in Portland Oregon where he selects adult and young adult graphic novels, YA fiction & nonfiction, video games and adult music for the library. He also plans lots of activities for local teens ranging from art contests to teen trivia to Pokemon parties. If this sounds like a dream job, it is. Sometimes he has to pinch himself to make sure he really gets to do all of this. He’s been reading comics for as long as he can remember and has been known to present an occasional conference sessions on graphic novels at the Oregon Library Association’s annual conference.

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