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Book Review: Here

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Published by Raw, Richard McGuire’s “Here,” a 6-page comic, first appeared in 1989. The 36 panels to explore were unique, but they also shared one commonality. Each panel, not arranged by any chronological restrictions, depicted the same spot as it changed throughout the past, present, and future. Because of the enthusiastic reception—based on not just the final product of the comic but also the sheer scope and ambition of the project—of “Here,” people were anxious to get more.

Finally, after a 25-year wait, Richard McGuire has delivered his follow-up. This time, “Here,” the comic, has become Here, the graphic novel. And what a transformation Here is. McGuire has expanded his idea to 300 pages, and each page is as engaging and beautiful as the one preceding it.

Much of what makes Here so grand is the deceptive simplicity of each panel. Each viewpoint is the same. There is a corner, and there are things surrounding this one small piece of the world. The corner transitions from being a part of the natural wilderness to being a part of a 1907 house to, again, being a part of the wild. The things, though—the people, the animals, the photos, the water, the trees—are what shape the narrative at hand here.

By reading Here, we get a sense of what it means to live and, perhaps more importantly, what it means to exist among others, those who are similar and those who are different. We watch as families come together, interact, rejoice, laugh, grow apart, suffer, and die. We see the similarities of these various inhabitants—from Native Americans to painters to the average, middle-class man, woman, and child. Seeing life unfold so honestly creates a powerful emotional connection that is hard to shake.

One strikingly moving part of Here is the way in which McGuire shows our differences. The modern age (and future) seems so distant—literally and figuratively—from the past. Toward the end of Here, McGuire presents a panel set in 2051. A woman sits alone and cries. Then, in an insert, a woman in 2015 uses her phone to share her emotions. Is this really where we are—and where we are headed? Are we so separated from others that we have to grieve alone? I think the answer is yes, and it’s heartbreaking to consider. Juxtaposed among these suffering women are two couples from the past, one in 1940 and one in 1952. Their embraces are passionate, warm, and loving. McGuire, by including these two small images, makes us desire the past, a time long before technology consumed our lives.

Differences between the past and the present do not always come with negative feelings. One ofHere’s most engaging panels takes place in 1964. A woman sits at a piano. She appears modestly dressed, with the colors surrounding her being pale and the room appearing dull. What occurs around her—of course in different times (1932, 1993, and 2014)—are stunning forms of dance. The characters swell with emotive movement, and although the years have changed, the need for artistic expression has not.

The colors with which McGuire uses to tell Here are deep and full. They take on the past and they blend well into the future. The sparse dialogue he options to include is just about as perfect as everything else at work in this graphic novel.

Here is not one of the best graphic novels of 2014. It’s bigger (and better) than that. Instead, what we have in McGuire’s creation is a stunning piece of literature. This is a work that takes on the possibilities of the American novel and conquers them. Here is a recreation of our history, our present, and our future. It’s our American lives.