Burned out in the aftermath of a job gone wrong, Paul is given a simple job- to watch a beautiful woman.
But, isolated and ever more paranoid, he finds himself between his duty, desire…
Without a doubt in my mind, this is a near-perfect example of minimalist storytelling. Coming in at around sixty pages (as formatted for my review copy) it might not seem like it, but as each page is a complete panel in itself there isn’t a lot of time to lay the groundwork. What’s beautiful about Her! is that David Taylor doesn’t try.
As the story opens, and in fact throughout the entire book, we’re told only what we need to know at any given moment. Paul is an agent for an organization, and has on occasion been given unsavory tasks. As a result, he’s become jaded and in at least one case, sloppy. After an extremely bad judgment call, Paul is given a no-brainer… whether it’s meant as a break or a punishment for him is left for Paul- and the reader- to decide. His job is to watch a woman.
We don’t know why. We don’t know who she is, if she’s a suspect or a potential victim, and just like with the rest of the book, it really doesn’t matter.
Until it does.
As Paul ponders past mistakes and current misfortunes, he finds himself drawn to the mystery of Her. He doesn’t know any more than we do… why he’s watching her or what he’s supposed to be watching for. So he just watches. Just like his readers, at every step Paul is given only enough information to move him (and us) along to the next page.
In a beautiful exhibition of thaumaturgical comicbook creation (“as above, so below”), Taylor’s art reflects his writing. The story is told in stark black and white, with no frills or unnecessary detail. Just what we need to get us to the next page, at which point the next piece of the puzzle is revealed. Paul is drawn as a lean, hardened individual who’s seen more than his share of the Bad. For her part, the woman is given every bit of mystery a nourish femme fatale could ask for. Even in the relatively simple drawing style, she’s given beauty and an obvious past all her own. Could be a good past. Could be a horrific one. We don’t know, nor do we need to.
Until we do.
This is why I still read comics, and still get excited enough to want to review them. I refer (maybe a little too often) to the concept of “show, don’t tell”. It’s a style of storytelling that takes guts on the part of the storyteller, because it puts part of the process firmly in the hands of the reader. For a writer, the single person who knows what the story is from the start, to give up that kind of control over their baby takes a leap of faith. You can’t worry about whether or not readers will see it coming, or if they’ll “get it”. That part of it is out of your hands as a writer. You just have to trust in the decisions you’ve made regarding the kind of story you’ve decided to tell. It might not work for every story, at least to this degree, but it works very well here.
Her! is an outstanding example of the the gold that can be found in independent comics. It (and more of his work) is available to read for free online, right this second! So quit sitting around listening to me yammer on about it… go read.
Final score: 10+