By Will Holden
Writer: Patrick Kindlon
Artist: Paul Tucker
Letterer: Wallace Ryan
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Put on your tinfoil hat, check your phone for wire taps, and search for the hidden messages in teletext my friends, because you were right! Conspiracies are real!
At least, that is the premise of 2019’s Nobody Is In Control. The story concerns a recently retired radio DJ called Richard, who has receded to the deep woods of Georgia to spend his time in blissful solitude. This is perhaps why it is so strange for Richard to see a stranger running somewhat frantically through the forests on his land. Once Richard catches up to this apparent fugitive we are introduced to Nick. Nick is fleeing something but won’t give a clear answer, and Richard feels compelled to help in whatever way he can, but Nick’s troubles are of a much higher stake than Richard could have imagined.
As the pair travel together through the thick foliage, Nick begins to provide piecemeal details, much to Richards chagrin, of a conspiracy theory: mass shooters are being programmed to kill by an illuminati-style group of corporate overlords. As the pair progress on their journey, Richard, as the reader’s proxy, learns more about this conspiracy and Nick’s involvement in it. The story beats have satisfying twists and turns and the script is excellent. I had a voice in my head for both characters almost as soon as they were introduced, as their personalities are perfectly represented by their conversation.
Nick uses real life shootings and the relatively well know “Planned Obsolescence” argument to explain how deeply entrenched the conspiracy is within society. This provides additional weight to Nick’s tale and helps to avoid making him sound like a loon straight out of the box. Much like Richard, the audience is not supposed to accept Nick’s story at face value, but they become more and more convincing the deeper he gets. Perhaps this is how real conspiracy theories become so insidious.
The art is superb throughout. It has a fairly heavily inked style with lots of shading and detail, matched with a broad and evocative colour palate. However, where the art truly shines it through its structure and panelling. Despite the story taking place entirely in the wilderness of Georgia, as Nick begins to eek out his story to Richard the art transports the two characters into the events being described, at one point a New York subway train pulls up in the forest and the two jump aboard. The characters are not perturbed by this as they never truly leave the forest, but for the reader it creates such a vivid and unpredictable reading experience. As the volume progresses, this art decision goes one step further as the style changes completely; for a handful of pages we switch to an old fashioned manga style, complete with advice to read from right to left; later, Nick and Richard crawl into a cave and the art style becomes much more cartoony, with exaggerated features and a cleaner, simpler colour palette. These style switches keep the story feeling like a fresh experience throughout but also illustrates the plot points (pun not intended) in a way that a prose novel could never hope to achieve.
In this way, Nobody Is In Control get the very best out of the unique elements of graphic story telling. Even in times when the narrative takes place in the “real world” (for Nick and Richard) the level of thought that has been put into the structure of individual pages is noteworthy. Whether that is a magnificent two page spread with a gun being shot from the bottom left corner, the path of the bullets becoming the panel borders for the rest of the action taking place on the page; or the use of speech bubbles as little infographics to describe the local wildlife and on one occasion, a satirical advert for a Winchester rifle. For a short tale, this book packs in a huge amount of variation in its art and storytelling.
I give this graphic novel a huge recommendation, if you like conspiracy stories, have a healthy distrust of your government and giant corporations, and enjoy original and intriguing comic book art, give this a go. Your freedom depends on it!
5 Q Anons out of 5