Things Undone (NBM Publishing)

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thingsundone-header.jpgRick's becoming a literal (or is that metaphorical?) zombie in this new graphic novel from Shane White (North Country, The Overman).

 

 

88 pgs., 2 color; $12.95

(W & A: Shane White)

On the surface things seem to be going well for Rick Watts, protagonist of Shane White's new graphic novel Things Undone. He has a successful career as a graphic artist, a beautiful girlfriend who is entirely deferential to his needs and wants, and a job at a laid-back company where idiosyncrasy is the norm and the dress code seems to consist of "come dressed, please." Could Rick be the first indie boy in the history of graphic novels to actually be enjoying his life?

The cover to Things undone by Shane White.No fear, there's clearly something amiss in Rick's world. Instead of reveling in his good fortune he feels alienated from everyone and haunted with vague feelings that his life is not all it should be. He might be able to brush off those feelings were they not accompanied by strange physical events which demand his immediate attention. Rick's body is literally falling apart—an eyeball pops out, an ear comes off, a fingertip snaps—but no one else seems to notice and he doesn't experience the pain and agony one would normally associate with such injuries. What could be the explanation?

Rick's becoming a zombie, or he's already become one and is just starting to figure that out. Or his zombiefication is a metaphor for a psychological state he has to work through on the road to maturation. Take your pick because White leaves the boundary between reality and delusion deliberately vague. This tactic allows him to place an interesting spin on material already visited in many other graphic novels: the trials and tribulations of a talented young person finding his place in the world.

At its best Things Undone has the feel of an updated Edgar Allan Poe tale, with Rick serving as an unreliable narrator for whom a conversation with the Easter Bunny is as real as one with his boss. The fantasy (or delusional or magical) sequences are more interesting than those set in the real world where Rick comes off as quite the self-centered brat and where events are brought most improbably to a tidy conclusion. Overall this novel is not magical enough to work as a fable nor real enough to succeed as drama, but is still worth a look and shows that White is a talent to watch (this is only his third graphic novel) even if this particular work is not entirely successful.

White's art is a good match for his story and draws heavily on manga conventions: the characters are quite cartoony with big heads, spaghetti arms, big eyes and frozen hair while the frames feature expressive backgrounds and lots of sound effects. The stylized art sets you up to interpret the story as taking place at least partially in never-never-land, a judgment reinforced by an unusual color choice: pure black and white with orange taking the play of gray and providing the shading and texture. This combination is jarring at first (orange and black immediately make me think of Halloween) and due to the prevalence of orange you need to read this comic near a strong light source but you soon adjust to the color scheme and it becomes just another attribute of the fictional world of this novel.

You can check out a preview of Things Undone at http://www.nbmpub.com/comicslit/white/undonepre1.html as well as the author's blog at http://skinshark.blogspot.com/. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

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