Read In.

Read In. by Will McPhail

Nick, a young illustrator, can’t shake the feeling that there is some hidden realm of human interaction beyond his reach. He haunts lookalike fussy, silly, coffee shops, listens to old Joni Mitchell albums too loudly, and stares at his navel in the hope that he will find it in there. But it isn’t until he learns to speak from the heart that he begins to find authentic human connections and is let in—to the worlds of the people he meets. Nick’s journey occurs alongside the beginnings of a relationship with Wren, a wry, spirited oncologist at a nearby hospital, whose work and life becomes painfully tangled with Nick’s.

Illustrated in both color and black-and-white in McPhail’s instantly recognizable style, In elevates the graphic novel genre; it captures his trademark humor and compassion with a semi-autobiographical tale that is equal parts hilarious and heart-wrenching—uncannily appropriate for our isolated times.

Too literary for me — I didn’t really get several of the colored passages representing when Nick makes a real emotional connection. Some of them felt like dream (nightmare) sequences, others were clearly meant to convey actual continuing conversation. Especially the ending, I wasn’t clear on and would have appreciated another explanatory sequence because the way I’m interpreting it doesn’t really make sense.

He seemed to think his only challenge was playacting his life when to me his emotional detachment and ennui reads as depression.

The artwork is great. The expressions are eloquent and the frequent bug-eyes Nick makes are entertaining. The black and white outline artwork used for most of the work contrasts effectively with the color segments — I just would have appreciated slightly less metaphorical for some of them.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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