Taut, elliptical graphic novel serves as both existential parable and homage to an earlier era of classic comics.
Written and illustrated by Lemire, creator of the Essex County Trilogy (The Country Nurse, 2007, etc.), the story could hardly be simpler or more spare. A strange man arrives in the small town of Large Mouth: “Home of the World’s Biggest Bass! Population 754.” He comes without a vehicle, identification or much in the way of possessions. He is wrapped head to toe, arm to arm, and finger to finger in bandages. He wears glasses that are more like goggles, obscuring his eyes. He introduces himself as John Griffen. He is “The Nobody” of the title. The year is 1994. Explains 16-year-old Vickie, whose father owns the town’s diner, “All I know for sure is that after he came here, everything changed forever.” Well, yes and no. Though Vickie is the only one who develops a friendship with the bandaged stranger, the small town seems to absorb his presence until he’s almost part of the citizenry—or maybe part of the scenery. He keeps to himself; he doesn’t make trouble. Vickie works at the diner under her dad’s watchful eye; he has been particularly protective since his wife disappeared when Vickie was nine. Vickie has a hole in her life that perhaps the stranger can help fill. She takes him meals. She learns that he was formerly a professor in Chicago and that he remains involved with some mysterious chemistry experiments. He seeks in Large Mouth the peace of mind that he couldn’t find in Chicago, while she hopes to escape to the big city and leave her small-town boredom behind. When another woman disappears from Large Mouth, Griffen is the immediate suspect. Is he really a friend to Vickie, or is he a threat? Is he even John Griffen?
Black-and-white artistry perfectly complements the noirish plot.