Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth
Graphic novels often have a way of getting across human pain and loneliness that can’t be replicated in quite the same way without visual accompaniment. Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan- a small man with a small life squeezed into very small panels indeed- is a lonely human being whose lack of social graces and panache can grate on you, even while you’re trying to root for him. He’s on a journey to meet the father who abandoned him; a friendly but inconsequential middle-aged man who lacks the power and gravitas that Jimmy imagined. The story is interleaved with the childhoods of Jimmy’s father and grandfather, who meet again later in the book; all three men have endured misery and loneliness and it’s clear that, if they are not exactly flawless men, they could have turned out a hell of a lot worse. Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth is about life’s disappointments, both small and large, but it is not without its moments of redemption and it’s hard not to heave a sigh of relief when the author holds out the prospect of something good for the hapless Jimmy, or to feel like perhaps Jimmy Corrigan earned it by stepping out of his comfort zone and going on a quest which, ironically, turns out to be just as mundane as the rest of his life but which opens him up to the possibility of a fuller future. You’ll never shake your head at your grandpa’s un-PC sentiments, look at that mousy guy in the cubicle next to you at work the same way, or snap at a child again; at least, not without regretting it a little more.