The Absence graphic novel has received a large amount of nominations and praise as it collects a series of self-published issues that spans across a number of years, five to be exact. It is the work of a literary genius.
As a reviewer I get to read a number of graphic novels, most of which deal with an outright hero and some sort of villain or villainous situation. This is the beauty of The Absence; this graphic novel is a dark read that deals with a number of real issues.
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It centers around two main characters: Clay Marwood and Dr. Temple. They both seem like complete foils of one another, with only a single thing in common… a hidden, riddled past. Whilst Temple is hailed as a war hero and lives a lavish life, he is tackled by his biggest challenge yet; living in a small town stuck in its old ways. As a scientist he cannot look towards the future whilst living within a village that is limited by its small town complex.
Marwood on the other hand is born and raised within the village. He is a hideously disfigured former soldier that has returned from the tortures of World War II. But nobody is happy to see him. In fact, most wish that he had remained dead and gone. And when a young boy goes missing, things can only become worse, especially if you are Marwood.
This Black and White graphic novel is ironically far from being just plain black and white; the story is a complex read that shows the horrors of humanity and how evil people are, without needing to be violent. This entire graphic novel reads as though it were a script to a dramatic thriller film. The writing is perfectly timed as Martin Stiff reveals character histories and concepts just as they are needed. The dialogue is believable, well thought out and well versed. It even manages to squeeze in some dark humor once in a while. This is not a tale of glitz, glam and a caped man. This tells the story of complex relationships, friendships and freedom and shows that even though the world is considered to be at war, it is individuals that are actually at war with each other.
The art serves its purpose here. Like the subject matter, it is not pretty; made up of black, white and grey tones. But it is this very art that makes this read so powerful. Had it been clean cut and coloured in it would not have the same effect on the reader. The jagged and jarring images lend to this shattered society and the broken people that live within it. The facial expressions remain easy to read and interpret as your flow from one frame to the next. Even without an abundance of colour, Martin Stiff has paid close attention to the details on display in the backgrounds of the frames on the page. All this effort shows just why it took 5 years to complete this book.
With Free Comic Book Day passed many people will be looking for something new to read, something they can get into and enjoy without having to follow an ongoing for the next ten years. “The Absence” is exactly that, it offers something fresh and realistic. In a world filled with Spandex and capes, this title reminds us that reality can be just as entertaining and frightening. This title deserved to be nominated for best comic at the British Comic Awards. It is unlike anything you have ever read before. This read is Sci-Fi suspense at its best, proving that you do not need super villains when society can be just as daunting.