By Luke Pearson
Beautiful presentation, two tone orange and black, a style reminiscent (somehow to me) of a dark Ladybird book or something slightly beyond my memory from childhood. That’s the initial feel of this delicious hardback edition from Luke Pearson and Nobrow that we previewed here on the FPI Blog a while ago.
Pearson really is one of the rising stars of UK comics, with his small body of work acclaimed far and wide. And after the all-ages delight of his first Nobrow comic Hildafolk, I was expecting great things from Pearson’s debut graphic novel.
And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s not a story though, more a poetry piece, of tone, of missed moments coalescing to form a tale slight in actual narrative, but one that packs a phenomenal emotive punch, gets pretty much everything right and delivers an assured and near perfect debut.
Just a cursory glance will tell you it’s a thing of beauty. The vivid orange may seem bold and strange at first glance, but it’s a sodium light, night-time colour, and fits so well to the late night mood the story evokes so perfectly.
A man drives, a tear rolling down his face, he misses the dancing tree, he misses the giant briefly breaking the surface of the lake, he misses the double skulled skeletal child lying in the bushes.
But why is he crying? Where is he driving to? The latter you find out right at the end, but the former, the why is he crying – that’s the important part of Everything We Miss. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s all the things he’s just driven past? Maybe it’s everything…. everything he’s missed, and by extension everything we miss as well.
Everything We Miss tells an all too familiar tale of a couple self destructing in slow motion, where the tiny minutiae of everyday annoyances become cumulatively impossible to overcome, where complacency and stagnation all develop to the tipping point, and the relationship fails.
At home, lying in bed, ghostly fingers grip him, forcing words from his mouth…. about the things he thinks are missing … nasty, petty, spite filled words, poisonous, toxic, destructive things. The sorts of things we all think, but we rarely say, until finally pushed to our limit, or perhaps until we’re forced to?
The black, spectral shape coalesces and moves through the neighbourhood, and although we see it wreak havoc in just one relationship, a pull away reveals hundreds of similar shapes ascending, presumably all with the same goal, a reminder of things missed.
We follow the relationship as it disintegrates, so many little things missed.. that bus, the date, those calls, the reconciliatory email slipping unnoticed into the junk folder, never to be read. It’s a heartbreaking yet almost comical collection of coincidences and missed moments…. all leading to one man, tear falling down his cheek, driving late at night.
So it’s a devastatingly accurate piece, and one that will remind you of all those moments in your life where you could have done something different, a reminder of all the “if onlys”.
For one so young, Pearson’s ability to create something that feels more like the drifting memories of a far older man, looking back at his life, at everything that slipped past, at all the moments fading away, lost forever is very impressive indeed. Old beyond his years, that’s Luke Pearson.
But before you get the idea it’s a dour, depressing, miserabilist piece, I’ve got to correct you. Entwined amongst the terribly real, awfully sad breakdown, Pearson throws in other moments, as he drifts around a neighbourhood.
And in his drifting he adds some levity, even some ridiculously silly and fun moments. In a book that looks at a relationship self destructing, you’re not surprised by the picture of a man regretting his lost youth, or a neighbour missing a lump, but I doubt you’d then expect a page of space orang-utans chucking rocks at the earth being an explanation of near Earth asteroid events?
And to suddenly, unexpectedly add in these ridiculous, fantastical elements, such as the asteroid throwing things, or even more unexpectedly, right in the middle of another devastatingly misjudged relationship moment – the alien creatures positioned all around their living room, forever just out of sight – it just adds the right element of fantastical incredulity to the tension.
This mix of fantastical and real, of frivolity and heartbreak, that’s what gives Everything We Miss that little bit more. Without them, it would still be an excellent but downbeat read.
With them, it becomes sublime, pitch perfect – heartbreak and a smile, surreal yet grounded, poignant and absolutely true – it captures everything you’ve ever felt about love and loss, about everything you’ve missed.