Obselete – despair writ large upon the page in beautiful, evocative style.
By Mikkel Sommer
Mikkel Sommer’s Obselete is another of Nobrow’s 17×23 series – short comics produced with all the quality and beauty of Nobrow’s graphic novels, but allowing the artists to try out new things – and for Nobrow to try out new artists. As always with Nobrow, it’s beautifully put together, a comic given weight by virtue of the quality of the incredible production values Nobrow have become known for.
His first Nobrow work was in the Graphic Cosmogony anthology, and it was really visually impressive:
“Genesis” by Mikkel Sommers ….. Using very open pages and bright, colourful, scratchy lines Sommers describes, with wit and a wry sense of wonder, all the quite ridiculous events that lead to the creation of the Norse pantheon.”
But Obselete takes it to another level entirely. The short story is almost wordless – less than 100 words across it’s 24 pages. But Sommer carries the book with tight graphic storytelling, all the while creating an evocative and emotional story of one man’s return from war, plagued by ghosts of those he’s seen killed, ghosts of those men, women and children he may well have killed himself.
Tormented and lost, his only friend is another casualty of his war – and in just as bad a state as he is – they’re numb, beaten down, traumatised. These men are walking wounded, post traumatic stress disorder given flesh.
The man attempts to escape as best he can, but pills don’t help, isolation doesn’t help. Depressed, suicidal, living in a room he doesn’t leave, he burns his old life, grabs a gun and hooks up with his friend, for a booze and pills fuelled bank raid.
All along you can see where he’s headed – the bank raid’s just an escape – a desperate suicide attempt by way of violence and brutality. A desperate man taking a desperate step, wishing he could just end it all, and going out in a bank raid’s far easier than doing the deed himself.
But something happens in the bank, there’s death and a traumatic twist. Suddenly the man has a chance to reconnect to a life he thought he’d left behind. But when even that is snatched away, all he can do is carry his plan through. The method may have changed, but the end result is the same – it’s been waiting for him. So this antique, this relic, this obselete man finishes the book just like he started it – alone, prone, eyes closed.
Sommers controls the book really well, with so few pages, so little text, it should be a fast read, but there’s no feeling of something inconsequential here. Sommer’s pacing is perfect, his artwork eyecatching, it acts to slow your progress throuugh the panels, as the desire to take everything in kicks in. And because the art’s so effective, the story has a gravitas and importance belying it’s length, and it’s just such a perfect read.
Sommer’s artwork is so very good here, perfect control, wordless panels saying so much, evocative, emotive, beautiful in their despair. You should easily be able to see what I mean just from the few examples here. But just take that panel above, one of the few dynamic panels in the entire book – it’s rough, loose, but the control is so good that everything works – kinetic brilliance, practically perfection.
Obselete just works. Mikkel Sommers is definitely one to keep an eye on, a rising star for sure.