photo & text by nacrowe
originally published as issue #22 in the EIGHTBALL series, the graphic novel ICE HAVEN (PANTHEON, 2005) by CELEBRATED ALTERNATIVE COMICS cartoonist DANIEL CLOWES is a compelling KALEIDOSCOPIC depiction of an AMERICAN small town's inhabitants with interweaving personal narratives that sometimes resolve and other times continue onward unabated such as is the case in real life. LOVE, DEATH, LOSS, MARRIAGE, SEX and DIVORCE find their way into one's life trajectory much as JEALOUSY, PRIDE, ART, PARANOIA, HISTORY and PREJUDICE do as well. CLOWES' makes CLEVER use of differing art styles in his panels to represent the UNIQUE worldview and perspective of different said inhabitants, whether they be INNOCENT children or SCHEMING adults.
in many ways, this narrative experiment at the heart of ICE HAVEN reminds me of the IDIOSYNCRATIC DAVID BYRNE film TRUE STORIES (WARNER BROS, 1986) and how said film juxtaposes various aspects of RURAL TEXAN life and CULTURE without editorializing or passing judgment on the subject. BYRNE throughout is just a PASSIVE observer providing brief glimpses on the then rapid industrial expansion of the microchip industry and its effects on the landscape and how such informed how inhabitants viewed and identified themselves. with ICE HAVEN, CLOWES has a comic critic embedded in the mix who acts as a GREEK chorus, providing UN-AUTHORITATIVE insight and commentary on the action at hand. this is a distracting device of sorts and CLOWES' actual opinion is never elucidated specifically to the reader. it is just another voice to add to the mix.
and that is ultimately how i see this graphic novel in general, as in INTERESTING composite shot of a community, warts and all. there are some people with AMBITION with good intentions and others set to EXPLOIT circumstances to their own benefit in completely BAD FAITH, just like in real life. i dont get the feeling that CLOWES is making any META-COMMENTARY on specific aspects of modern AMERICAN LIFE, more just attempting to showcase the mechanizations of it and for the reader to get a sense of how the pieces potentially fit together.
ICE HAVEN is an INTRIGUING achievement and well worth checking out.
photo & text by nacrowe
ever since i first saw the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy (AMBLIN, 1985-1990) back in my early childhood there was always that PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENT about what, if anything, you would want to revisit in the past if given the opportunity. would i spend more time talking with grandmother before she passed or maybe rewatch significant childhood moments from my past from a distance with the perspective of an adult? despite the EMOTIONAL CHARGE and immense temptation of the idea, i always come back to "no." the space-time continuum moves in one direction (i assume) and we are not PSYCHOLOGICALLY or EMOTIONALLY equipped to hand that sort of STRESS. moving forward in time is difficult enough.
but cartoonist DANIEL CLOWES' in his vividly colored and insularly CEREBRAL graphic novel PATIENCE (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2016) provides a character so utterly consumed by GRIEF by the death of his pregnant girlfriend that he is willing to risk all to alter that moment she was murdered. part CRIME MYSTERY, part SCIENCE FICTION, at its core PATIENCE is all about the transcendent power of LOVE and how such a powerful connective force transforms our very sense of MEMORY and IDENTITY. for JACK, the protagonist, this LOVE and its attendant emotions from is so strong that he is set off on an all-consuming course of SELF-VIOLENCE and SELF-DESTRUCTION to the point of SELF-ANNIHILATION that it very much makes you question the MORALITY of such a choice, even if the ends are somewhat redeemable. i know i just described the tired motivation of virtually every STEVEN SEGAL or JEAN-CLAUDE DAMME plot ever devised, but in the capable hands of CLOWES this narrative is more of a MORALITY PLAY than a revenge thriller. the focus is on the INTERIORITY of that MOTIVATION, rather than the SCI-FI or "whodunnit" aspects of the plot.
my thought is that there is more than a bit of an unhealthy sense of HUBRIS, EGO and even ENTITLEMENT in attempting to change the past. out of all the possible past wrongs that could be rewritten, obviously it is to JACK's benefit for this wrong to be corrected so that he can enjoy the family that was taken from him. i understand that, but for SOCIETY as a whole there are plenty of other actions that could be taken to provide a far greater UTILITY for mankind related to preventable WARFARE, DISEASE, POVERTY and the like. possibilities are virtually endless, but the thing that gets me is that even these choices would have REVERBERATIONS and resulting OUTCOMES whose wake would inevitably result in more unintended CONSEQUENCES and unavoidable avenues and opportunities for HUMAN SUFFERING.
i just dont see the cycle ever ending. as much as we find connection with one another, we equally bring pain and SUFFERING to world. it is unavoidable and i dont see any "fixing" of the past solving such a DILEMMA. i really enjoyed PATIENCE for thoughtfully thinking its way through such a proposition. definitely a compelling read worthy of investigation for anyone interested in compelling thought experiments. definitely recommended.