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Graphic Novel Review: Revolver by Matt Kindt

Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction, Parallel Universe, Graphic Novel
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: July 20, 2010
ISBN-10: 1401222412
ISBN-13: 978-140122241
Author Website: Matt Kindt

Revolver is the latest graphic novel offering from Matt Kindt, winner of a 2008 Harvey Award, whose first novel Pistolwhip was named one of Time Magazine’s Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2001. In Revolver we are introduced to Sam, a depressed party picture editor at a newspaper outside Chicago. But Sam is not entirely ordinary, and when he falls asleep at 11:11 one night, he wakes up again in an alternate universe, where America has sustained an apocalypse and near anarchy reigns. But then, when he goes to sleep at 11:11 in the destroyed world, he wakes up again in his normal one. Stuck in this cycle, Sam must find a way to end one world or the other, or else go mad.

Thematically, the story is obsessed with the idea of contentment. Unlike many parallel universe or apocalyptic novels, Sam does not immediately, or indeed ever, come out of the depressive state that dominates his “normal” world. His depressed character remains consistent in both worlds, even as the circumstances vary widely. Sam is depressed in the normal world because his life is humdrum and mundane, but in the apocalyptic world his life is one tragedy after another, and he is forced into actions that haunt him. Sam does not rise up into some sort of heroism just because he is put into a bad situation. As a depressed person, Sam is seeking contentment, and the twin worlds in which her lives give him the unique opportunity to see his life in vastly different situations. It’s like reading a science fiction version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Kindt has an obsession with time and numerology in this tale; always making prominent different presentations of time. From the 11:11 world conversion, to the multiple segues between chapters depicting illustrative versions of an analog clock, to the slow climb of the news ticker at the bottom of each page from one to 164. That ticker evidences the attention to detail of this tale. The slow climb of numbers in the ticker is the page numbers of the book. It is a clever use of normally dead space, and one that adds to the story, as each line relates to the world Sam currently finds himself in, and gives the reader background on what is going on in the larger world without using panel space.

Artistically, Kindt has chosen to use a simple black, white and tan motif. His figures are fully formed, but in a grouping of dark lines, almost like the second to last step before the finish in How to Draw books. It adds a minimalist effect to the story, focusing the readers’ attention on the story and its themes – not on the artwork that facilitates it. It also makes the apocalyptic world seem even emptier, and yet at the same time creates a consistency between the two worlds of Sam’s life – as if he views all the worlds through a dark lens and so sees nothing in detail, only forms and ideas. It is the perfect rendering for the story.

Sexual content and mature language mean this story should be read by adults or mature teens, but again Kindt is careful to make these elements serve his story. But all in all, Kindt’s work is superb. The story is cleverly presented, beautifully and appropriately drawn, and takes an unexpected twist at the end that will surprise the readers. The work is intellectually deep while still having a high level of action, and a air of mystery. If thise work had been written for the screen, it would have been a Twilight Zone episode on the quality level of “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”. I highly recommend reading Revolver even if graphic novels are not your normal cup of tea. Kindt has woven a complex tapestry that speaks to the soul of the postmodern.