December 27, 2012

Best of 2012 -- THE HYPO

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
The Hypo
(Noah Van Sciver; Fantagraphics)

Assuming the Mayan Apocalypse doesn't happen, we may just look back at 2012 as the year of Lincoln. This dude is seemingly ubiquitous now -- there's even talk about putting his face on the five dollar bill, naming some logs after him, and carving his likeness into a mountain in South Dakota. I've been seeing that freakin' weedy beard, stovepipe hat and creepy mole everywhere lately. Hell, he may even be more popular than Jesus at this point. 
There is hype and pizzazz and iconic posturing all over the place. But into this all this Lincolnizing, there came a quiet tale of a younger man, the Springfield, Illinois Lincoln, the Lincoln of 1837 to 1842, the pre-Mary Todd Lincoln, the Lincoln filled with self-doubt, the Lincoln battling debilitating depression, the Lincoln of Noah Van Sciver's The Hypo from Fantagraphics.

The Hypo is not about myth building. It is not about politics. It is not even about America. What Van Sciver has done in his book is tell and entirely human story – it just happens to be one about Lincoln. Van Sciver's toolkit includes the pens and pins of pathos and pain, self-doubt and angst, as much as it contains determination and fortitude. The Lincoln of The Hypo transcends his time, place, and even (or maybe especially) his name.  When we did our review of The Hypo in early September of this year, Jason, Danny and I all agreed that what made this graphic novel stand out so much was the level of emotional intensity that Van Sciver was able to bring in all the choices he made throughout the book. From his line work to panel layouts, pacing to perspective, everything in this book makes this particular story about Lincoln a story for and about all of us .It also propelled Van Sciver from "up-and-comer" status to full-blown artist. It stands as a true example of the capabilities of this medium to deliver stories in a truly visceral manner.

Apparently something about 2012 made America lust for Lincoln. The myth of the man filled some sort of hole in our culture. It took Noah Van Sciver to quietly remind us that behind the impassive craggy marble visage seated there stoically surveying the goings-on in Washington D.C., there existed a fallible human, a man who fought with himself, and who suffered from mental illness. Lincoln was a man who overcame, a man who could be any of us, any one of us all. 

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