Here’s The Skinny:
“Patience is a psychedelic science-fiction love story, veering with uncanny precision from violent destruction to deeply personal tenderness in a way that is both quintessentially Clowesian and utterly unique in the author s body of work. This 180-page, full-color original graphic novel affords Clowes the opportunity to draw some of the most exuberant and breathtaking pages of his life, and to tell his most suspenseful, surprising and affecting story yet. “
The words ‘graphic novel’ get thrown around a lot. Most of the time when media outlets use it they’re typically describing compilations of individual comics (For instance, The Watchmen). True graphic novels tend to be a rarity, and there are only a handful of artists who create them. Daniel Clowes is one of those handful of creators, and he is, perhaps, the best of them.
Clowes latest novel, Patience, is easily his most ambitious and accessible work to date and it may very well it up becoming his signature work in an already impressive oeuvre.
Since the books description lacks any real description of the actual story, I’m going to go all 10th grade book report on you and give you a bit of a summarization.
Jack and Patience are your typical young couple living in the big, bad city, where they only have each other and no one else, at least until Patience finds out she’s pregnant. Both are ecstatic, but obviously filled with worried, mostly financial. Jack makes his money handing out fliers for strip clubs and but has been lying to Patience and saying that he’s working in an office. After finding out about her pregnancy, Jack decides to come clean and start their new life as a family with a clean slate. Jack comes home and finds Patience lifeless body in their bedroom.
Jack is initially arrested and jailed for the murder, but then finally released for lack of evidence after two years and then Jack spends the next twenty-five years of his life obsessed with finding Patience killer. Luckily enough, he meets a fat weirdo through a blue skinned hooker (Remember, this is twenty-five years in the future) who’s discovered time travel. Jack tracks the weirdo down, steals the device, and goes back in time in hopes of preventing Patience’s death by icing out one of her old crappy boyfriends who Jack believes is her actual killer (And, in anyway, is).
For most science fiction fans, this is a well-worn story, with Stephen King’s 11/22/63 being the most recent example of the trope. But Clowes approach to the subject matter breaks away from the mold on several different levels thanks to Jack. Our protagonist has been so single focused for such a long time that he’s more than likely semi-psychotic. The man just does not care how his actions affect the future as long as he can save the love his life and avoid twenty-five years of torment. And because of Jack’s erratic behavior, the story takes several unusual twists and turns.
Although Jack is a fascinating character, the true protagonist of the novel is its title character. Patience is a strong young woman who has far too much weight placed on her shoulders. She is broad-minded and intelligent but is too often sucked into the petty dramas of her family and poor choices of male companionship. Even though the audience is well aware of what will eventually happen to her, you can’t help but be captivated by her story and by how two separate versions of Jack influence her life and choices.
Along with being an excellent writer, Clowes as an artist is stunning. His clean lines are rendered simply and without static, giving each panel almost an otherworldly feel to them. His most stunning drawings, however, are the psychedelic fugue states he draws as Jack’s mind and body are rocket through time and space. These drawings almost have a late 60’s Steve Ditko feel to them.
Patience is a truly excellent novel and would make a perfect gateway for readers who have been reluctant to read comics because of their perceived lack of depth or because they have no interest in superheroes.
Morning Soundtrack: Stillness In Wonderland By Little Simz