Over the years, there have been countless examples of fantastic science fiction depicted in the comics medium. This last week I was reminded of one of my absolute favorites, The Long Tomorrow.
Written by Dan O’Bannon (perhaps best known as one of the screenwriters for Ridley Scott’s Alien) and drawn by Jean Giraud (perhaps better known by his pseudonym Moebius) in 1975 while the two were working on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s tragically unrealized film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, The Long Tomorrow has an impressive science fiction pedigree — one that it more than lives up to.
Patience, the latest graphic novel from Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron), presents a story that is very much rooted in themes that the author has been exploring for some time, but also reaches beyond anything that he has done previously. The plot of Patience revolves around Jack Barlow, a man who travels through time to prevent the murder of his wife Patience. From that basic premise, Clowes is able to accomplish a great deal, exploring masculinity, justice, anger, the nature of consciousness, and love, in what is arguably the most firmly developed narrative found in any of his books.
Patience continues in the science fiction vein last explored by Clowes in his 2011 novel The Death-Ray, with time travel being a significant vehicle for the plot. The science-fiction aspect of the story is never overemphasized, however, leaving much more time for the human element to be examined. The novel opens in 2012, with Jack and Patience living together as a happy but anxious couple who are madly in love and about to become parents. It is implied that Patience has had a troublesome and abusive past, about which Jack knows very little. I never got the sense that this is because of outright callousness, however, but rather due to Jack not wanting to even think about Patience suffering. This bubble is burst when he arrives home to find Patience dead on the floor of their apartment, a narrative box telling the reader, “And this is where my story begins.”