Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln

Does anyone still read this blog? No matter. Hopefully you'll see more posts more regularly in the very near future. But if you're not reading, you won't notice either way.

Written and Drawn by Noah Van Sciver

For fans of Lincoln, fans of history, fans of comic books, fans of historically based comic books, and fans of melancholy, The Hypo is not to be missed. Focusing on the late twenties of one of the most famous and mythologized people in history, The Hypo gives us a view of Lincoln (backed up by his and his contemporaries' correspondence) as a depressed failure. At twenty-eight he has foundered as a lawyer, a politician, and a fiancee. He suffers from the bummers so severely that it's become one of his most defining characteristics to both friends and strangers alike. The story follows Lincoln through this strange period in his life as he grapples with an overriding wish to make a difference and be remembered, even while there is absolutely no indication that he will accomplish any such thing.

Sciver absolutely nails it. It's so easy to think of Lincoln or any figure of his stature as these great freight trains of Mighty Righteousness, barreling through life to their ultimate, kick-ass destiny with grace and aplomb. We can't separate what we know of Lincoln without remembering his really astonishing accomplishments, so those accomplishments necessarily color our interpretation of him. Sciver's approach to this problem (if it is a problem) is subtle, setting melancholic young Lincoln against our knowledge of what he will become, while at the same time showing us the seeds of what will make him great. Take a look at this page from early on in the narrative:

Setting aside the fact that these dudes are deciding on a platonic bed-sharing together after, like, 30 seconds of meeting (which apparently wasn't so weird in the frontier states during that period), look at how much Sciver accomplishes on this page. We see Lincoln's plain spoken style, his humbleness, his self-doubt, and his honesty here with so much fucking economy and elegance. And look at the expressions on Lincoln's face. Big ol' goofy doofus. You just wanna comb his hair and give him a hug and then let him save modern democracy as the last, best hope for mankind. The whole book pulls this off.

It's not all old-timey moping, for those of you afraid of words or feelings. We also see the combative, childish side of Lincoln as he pisses people off, falls in love, tries (and fails) to buy a hooker, and accidentally instigates a duel (with sabers!).

I recommend The Hypo highly. The pacing is perfect, the art is effective and sometimes super-moving, and the story is fascinating.

Four and a Half out of Five Top Hats

1 comment:

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