Brandon Borzelli's Geek Goggle Reviews
R.E.M Graphic Novel
Spoke Lane Entertainment
Colucci & Huszka
R.E.M is a hard cover, graphic novel that packs quite a punch with the material held within the 170+ pages. The book appears to be primarily about a man that trying to perfect a machine that will capture the concept of a full night's sleep but jammed into the span of minutes real-time. However, the book is really about depression and the sickness that takes its toll on the individual as well as those that interface with them either with frequency or on an emotional level. It's a powerful book that is thought-provoking and a little unsettling. This is the kind of book that brings the reader down to the level of the main character and it works all too well. This is definitely worth tracking down and reading.
The main character, Michael, is in the process of making this magical sleep machine but the reader learns quickly that his obsession seems to have accelerated when a loved one, Eva, died some time ago. The book quickly transitions from him obsessing over his machine to him breaking off from his support system to feed his obsession and to placate his paranoia.
Michael is of the belief that many of the people in his life are after his machine. This is a tricky concept because he has no problem discussing his work with others but he does seem to have people that are a little too interested in what he's up to. The paranoia seems to be valid in some cases but is brought to another level through his overreaction.
Michael's day-to-day problems are constantly being brought up to him by his policeman brother, Jimmy. They have a very sick mother that neither of them seems to know what to do with. This is compounded by Michael's money problems. Jimmy sees this as a lack of motivation and on some level, a lack of caring. The reality is Michael is sleep deprived, depressed and emotionally lost.
Michael meets and befriends a younger woman named Arella. She could supply Michael with an anchor to real life and provide him with a potential outlet for his internal struggles. However, Michael is reluctant to let her in and the constant thought of Eva is clouding his judgment and fueling his depression.
The book is a great read. Not knowing where this was headed is a big driver into plowing through the material in one sitting. Is there a conspiracy? Is there a twist? Is there a lurking murder? The possibilities from the opening twenty or so pages are seemingly endless. This helps to keep the pace moving at a good clip. The emotional aspect of the book is gripping.
Depression is a tricky emotion or illness to capture well in comics. It tends to be executed in too forced a way. Generally the lead character is hit with bad news on top of bad news and then the exposition tells the reader that the character is depressed. This is not the case here and it works effectively. The reader is sunk into a depression as Michael makes bad decisions and continues to isolate himself at every turn. The comic presents the sadness with equal importance as the paranoia which helps to blur the line for Michael. He's lost and it shows rather than having it spoon fed to the reader.
The graphic novel is presented in brilliant black and white. There are extended sequences where the artwork stands on its own with little to no dialogue or narration. These panels are of great importance because of the nature of the subject matter. It is here that the artwork excels. It captures the loneliness and dream-like state that Michael exists in. The artwork also gives a wide range of emotions when it comes to the characters. There is a terrific presentation when it comes to the building paranoia of the lead character and this couldn't have been pulled off if it weren't for the detailed artwork. The book is definitely a work of art.
Anytime you come across a book that you can't put down then you know you are on to something special. The book is a draining read as it manages to pull you down mentally, which provides a nice emotional ride for the reader. If you are looking for something different then I definitely urge anyone to pick this up.
4.5 out of 5 Geek Goggles