COMIC BOOK REVIEW: HERE / AUTHOR: RICHARD MCGUIRE / PUBLISHER: PENGUIN / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 9TH
Here is a beautiful and mesmerising 300-page expansion from Richard McGuire’s 6-page 1989 original comic. A dazzling experiment in form, it depicts a single room, or rather a single space, across thousands of years of history, both human and prehistoric, via a sequence of multi-panel insertions that create the impression that events are taking place not quite simultaneously but in some shared dimension.
The events themselves are sweetly mundane, which only add to the comics’ power. They initially seem to be arrayed at random, but as the pages go by, themes begin to appear. On one page, a scrapbook of women hold infants at different moments across decades, on another an elderly cleaner scrubs a chair while her counterpart in 1871 feeds a calf. There are occasional sprees of narrative that seep in and out of the progression of pages. If such designs sound flat or odd in print, then it’s further testament to the power of McGuire’s deceptively-simple illustrations. He manages to wring a surprising array of emotions from simple lines and blocks of colour interspersed with deliberately hackneyed jokes and the uncanny wisdom of the everyday.
McGuire alternates his designs between busy pages of four or five panels with intense human action, such as a collection of fancy dress parties at intervals of decades, to simple two panel pages with a more sombre and quiet tone. One of the most affecting is a pair of images consisting of a silhouetted woman and her shadow in 2014 and a thicket of trees in 1503, the whole thing formed from pale, almost pastel, greys, browns and greens. There are many such pages at which the reader, or perhaps viewer, might be prompted to pause and take in the stark beauty of absence. To do so is only part of the story.
This is a book that has been designed to be enjoyed at multiple speeds, through several readings and in different moods. It is pessimistic and optimistic at turns; both bleak and vivid and more a work of art than a comic book.
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