Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Nobody #1

Nobody #1, November 1998, Oni Press
writers: Alex Amado & Sharon Cho
artist: Charlie Adlard
letterer: Sean Konot
editors: Bob Shreck & Jamie S. Rich

Blogger’s note: Entry for Sunday, March 30, 2008.

I was sitting in a local cafĂ© when I wrote Saturday’s review of Superheroes Battle Super-Gorillas #1. I’d ordered a vanilla latte, and the barista (I assume they’re called baristas anywhere they work) told me that the espresso machine needed a few minutes to warm up. A few minutes turned into twenty, and as more customers came in and received their frozen yogurt before I received my order, I wondered if the guy even remembered that I was there. Several times, I was the only customer in the store, and he was in the back, presumably prepping for the day. I stood at the counter a few moments to no avail. I began to wonder if I was even there.

Of course, finally, the guy apologetically whipped up my drink and throughout the rest of my hour-long visit tried to smooth things over by showering me with offers of free samples. I went from feeling like a nobody to feeling like a somebody again.

This example is a rather mundane (albeit recent!), definitely spoiled instance of feeling like a nobody. Thousands, if not millions of similar instances plague our planet every day, ranging from the dull to the dire, and it seems Oni’s Nobody wants to explore them all. Based on this first issue, Nobody is a spy thriller starring a shape-shifter that infiltrates a Satanic sacrifice and stumbles onto a supernatural conspiracy. Yet, based on writer Sharon Cho’s supplemental essay at the end of this inaugural chapter, this series’ concept is much more than that. The Nobody identity adapted by its shape-shifting protagonist is actually a grander exploitation of colloquialisms attached to that anonymous identity. Cho asks, “What is ‘nobody’ wants to die? What if ‘nobody’ can do the impossible? What if you trusted ‘nobody’?”

In short, what if every time you said “nobody this” or “nobody that,” you were actually talking about somebody?

Assuming Nobody explores the bottomless theme of identity confusion, I will proactively pursue it -- I’ve enjoyed this subtext in comics ever since I read Vertigo’s Human Target series a few years ago. (You know, J.M. DeMatteis’ “Shrieking” story arc in Amazing Spider-man was actually my first exposure to the depths comics could explore regarding identity confusion and frustration. “Shrieking” is a dark story, wedged between Aunt May’s eventual death and the Clone Saga, but it’s worth a peak if only for DeMatteis’ exposition and Mark Bagley’s pre-Ultimate take on the ol’ Webhead.) Artist Charlie Adlard’s art is big draw, too (pardon the pun). His balance of thin, finely detailed pen work and stark dark/light contrast truly utilize the black and white format to the fullest, also complementing the suspense and supernaturalism of this issue’s opening sequences.

So, with its fair share of spy intrigue, mysticism, and character introspection, Nobody should have a little something for everybody.

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