Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Review time! with ‘No One Knows’

“Everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost”

No One Knows is an interesting graphic novel by Salvatore Vivenzio (who wrote it) and Gianluca Nori (who drew it). Given those names, I’m going to assume it wasn’t originally published in English, but I don’t see a translator listed, so maybe it was. Black Panel Press published it, and I’m going to take a look at it!

No One Knows tells a few different stories, even though they’re ultimately all part of the same story. Vivenzio focuses on several characters who are seemingly unrelated to each other but whom we slowly come to realize are connected. There’s a heart surgeon performing an operation. There’s an old fisherman taking care of a child. There’s a man who seems to visit bars a bit too often. There’s a man who’s been through some tragedy. There’s an intense cop who likes to visit prostitutes. As we go, we realize that some of these characters are the same people. The story isn’t too hard to follow and comes into focus pretty easily, but Vivenzio tells it in an interesting way, as he jumps to different characters quickly and goes back and forth in time just a bit to fill in some gaps. An interesting thing about the book is that the back cover has this written on it: “Grief poses the ultimate existential question: What comes after death?” The answer, of course, is the name of the comic, but Vivenzio isn’t really interested in that question. He’s much more interested in what comes next for the living after a death, and the answer is, of course, that we do know that, because we all experience grief. What he does here is show the consequences of actions and how grief affects people in many different ways. One person tries to find solace in religion. Another in denial. One tries to drink away grief. Another tries to fuck away grief. It’s a meditative book, because Vivenzio shows us so many damaged people, but none of them are admitting that they’re damaged, so the reader has to think a bit about why they’re acting the way they are before all the plot threads come together. It’s not the most inexpressively deep comic in the world, but Vivenzio does a nice job with the topic, as he allows us to figure things out and see how grief spreads out in a community and affects people differently.

Nori has a nice, thick-brushed style that grounds the book in reality, allowing Vivenzio’s script to float a bit because it keeps the focus on the mundane. He gives us good, solid close-ups on everyday things – a worm getting baited, keys in a lock, gloves getting taken off and put on, a gun being fired, a thumb being sucked – that fit into the narrative and keep the book realistic while also serving a metaphorical representations of some of Vivenzio’s musings. He uses a six-panel or nine-panel grid quite a lot, which makes the few splash pages hit harder despite the fact that they’re not action-packed (they tend to be emotionally-packed, though, so there’s that). He mixes black and white with color nicely – generally, the figures are in black and white (not always, but generally) and the scenery is in color (again, not always, but usually), so the figures stand out a bit more and when they are colored, they fade nicely into the background. The white figures also contrast well with the thick shadows he uses – it’s, as I noted, not a happy book, so the shadows stalk the characters a bit more than they might in a cheerier comic. Nori does a nice job catching the subtleties of the faces – for the most part, the characters keep their emotions in check, so when something truly horrible happens, Nori is able to show how much it affects them. Instead of making the characters over-emote, he makes sure their happiness or sadness is less obvious, so when they do break down, it’s more effective.

No One Knows is an interesting comic, one that lingers with you a bit because of the topic that Vivenzio delves into – grief – and the way he tells the story, slowly, methodically, and not always linearly. It’s not a great comic, because he does traffic in clichés just a bit, but that’s not a deal-breaker. Nori’s art is well done and somber, and it’s nice to see creators tackle deeper subjects. I can’t find it on Amazon, so I can’t link to it, but if you check out Black Panel’s web site, I’m sure you can find it there.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

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