A review a day: Revolver
You know, some people take years and years to finish something, and it’s still not as good as what Matt Kindt can do in less than a year!
Revolver is the latest graphic novel by Mr. Kindt, who has previously unleashed such awesomeness as Super Spy and 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man on us (plus 2 Sisters, which is a lesser work but still a good read, and Pistolwhip, which he didn’t write) and has, apparently, many more in the pipeline. Steve Wands letters Revolver, and it’s a Vertigo book, which means that DC might have their heads up their asses with regard to a lot of things, but not in recognizing talent. This nice hardcover checks in at $24.99, which ain’t bad for over 160 pages.
My biggest problem with Kindt is that the first thing I read by him, Super Spy, was so good that the bar was set ridiculously high. Both 3 Story and this book are very good, but they’re not quite as good as Super Spy, which I shouldn’t count against it, but I often can’t help. And Revolver isn’t quite as good as 3 Story, either. Now, this isn’t that big a problem – it’s like trying to decide which is the better ABBA song when, as we know, 95% of them are brilliant – but it’s why I’m not unequivocally recommending this. If you’ve never read anything by Kindt, this is an excellent place to start. So there’s that.
Revolver is the story of a man named Sam who switches between reality, “revolving” back and forth between them. (The word “revolver” is important in two other contexts in the book, as well, but that’s where the main use of it comes from.) He wakes up one morning and, as he goes to work, the world basically falls apart. An explosion rocks the building where he works (he’s a party photographer for a newspaper) and people start falling from the sky. He rescues his boss from a psycho (who he later learns is her ex-boyfriend), killing the dude in the process. Then, suddenly, he’s back in what he considers the “real” world, where everything is normal, his job sucks, his relationship with a girl named Maria is stagnant, and he’s terrified of his boss, Jan. Early on, Kindt shows that the “revolving” occurs every night at 11.11 p.m., but soon it appears that the changes are happening almost randomly (and it’s probable that Kindt simply stopped showing the time when Sam “revolved,” but the changes do seem to happen more rapidly). In the “fake” world, Sam, Jan, and a few co-workers launch a newspaper to get the truth out about what’s happening – the government has declared martial law, cities are being wiped off the map (poor Seattle!), and one man is being persecuted for it. Eventually Sam and Jan head off to rescue Maria, and Sam becomes more and more resourceful. In the “real” world, he remains a drone, but we see that the way he lives in the “fake” world are bleeding into this one – he starts to cut Maria off when she starts talking about interior decorating, and he blackmails his boss into letting him fly to San Francisco and investigate what’s going on by using information she told him in the “fake” world. Sam begins to piece together what’s going on, and of course he has to choose which world he wants to live in. In the alternate world, his life has meaning but he could die at any moment. In the original world, he’s safe but bored. It’s not too hard to predict where Kindt is going with the story, but he does some nice things along the way to get us there.
The biggest problem with the book is that Kindt’s story isn’t strong enough to be sustained the way he tells it. Kindt has shown that he is a very good storyteller, and that’s not really in evidence here. In Super Spy, he arranged the stories out of chronological order and placed them in “dossiers,” so you can read the book from front to back or in order of the “dossiers” and still get the story (he continues that sort of storytelling in The Lost Dossiers, a nifty companion piece to the original book). In 3 Story, he tells the story in chronological fashion but uses three different narrators, so we get different points of view and learn as the story goes on that some of them know more than others about the main subject. There are brief glimpses of that in Revolver, as when Sam shows he knows something about the alternate world but we don’t find out how he knows until a few pages later, implying that the second scene takes place first chronologically, but for the most part, Kindt keeps everything very straight forward in this book. A strong narrative doesn’t need fancy twists, but while both Super Spy and 3 Story had solid narratives, Revolver‘s isn’t as powerful. It’s entertaining, certainly, but not as interesting.
What makes it worthwhile to read, at least, is the fact that it is an entertaining if not powerful story, and Kindt knows how to get us involved in the characters. The triangle of Sam, Jan, and Maria is fascinating because it’s playing out in two different realities, and Sam is often discombobulated by the changes. He loves Maria in the “real” world but is frustrated by her materialism. In the alternate world, she experiences more tragedy and needs the tough guy Sam has evolved into, but that Sam has cheated on her with Jan and has become less caring than the “real” Sam. Plus, Sam in the “real” world carries around the knowledge that he cheated on Maria in an alternate universe, coloring his responses to her. Kindt is very good at showing these characters, trapped in horrible or banal situations, with Sam knowing there’s a way out but not knowing which way to go. It’s this kind of stuff that makes Revolver fascinating.
Kindt is a good artist, but again, in this book it’s not quite as good as his previous stuff. The actual drawing is fine, but he doesn’t incorporate the art into the narrative as much as he’s done in past works, to its detriment. There are some flashes of a more inventive art style (for instance, when Sam kills the ex-boyfriend we get a cool point of view with Sam, giant-sized, standing in the background and the dude’s face in the foreground, battered), but it’s mostly laid out fairly conventionally with no real weirdness to the design. Again, if the story is strong enough, the presentation shouldn’t matter, but in Kindt’s previous books, the integration of sound effects, for instance, into the panels was so effortless and clever that it enhanced the narrative instead of covering up flaws. When Kindt does experiment a bit with point of view or different designs, the book is much more interesting. It might get back to the fact that the story, while entertaining, has its flaws. Its relative predictability would be mitigated somewhat if the art, instead of just being solid, was more inventive. It’s frustrating, because something like this shows how good Kindt can be with designing a page:
There’s not enough even of this subtle kind of work, which is a bit frustrating.
I know it seems like I hated Revolver, but I didn’t. If this were the first Kindt comic I’d ever read, I’d like it a lot more and want to read more of his stuff. But I can’t judge this in a vacuum because I know how good Kindt can be, and I wish he had cut loose a bit more with this. Revolver is a good, solid comic, but it could have been much more. Oh well. I’m still looking forward to Kindt’s next project. It should be out in a few months, given how fast he works!
(Ms. Kelly Thompson gave this a more positive review, if you’re interested. It’s always good to read a lot of opinions before deciding to buy something!)
Tomorrow: Oh, those wacky Aussies!