Joe Young's Reviews > Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
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's review
Jan 03, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: abandonment, comics, graphic-novel, chris-ware
Read in December, 2010

Chris Ware - Writer & Artist

A gorgeously rendered, achingly sad novel in comic form, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is a masterpiece of graphic novel fiction. The story follows the titular protagonist, an emotionally-stunted, 36-year-old man more comfortable in his fantasy life as "The Smartest Kid on Earth" than in the pathetic reality of his lonely existence. One day Jimmy receives a letter from the father he never knew, casually requesting a visit from his long-abandoned son. Unsure what to do or even how he feels about this man he has never met, Jimmy is swept along on a tragi-comic journey to try bring some understanding and resolution to his own sad, messy life.

At times the structure of the graphic novel can be challenging for readers. The characters easily lapse into fantasy (which the reader is privvy to) and the stories of four generations of male Corrigans' are explored, which can be confusing as narrative switches occur abruptly and all four Corrigans' bear the same bald pate and slouching, doughy physique making it difficult upon first glance to differentiate between them. However, readers who manage to overcome the minor idiosyncrocies of this book will be richly rewarded. The art is simply amazing -- Chris Ware employs a spare and iconic syle (thank you, Publisher's Weekly) that is as effective at portraying the massive, architectural complexity of a Worlds' Fair as it is at portraying the lonely isolation of an abandoned child. I found myself re-reading passages just to be able to appreciate the delicate beauty of Ware's art; the man can communicate deep, profound sadness and loss in just four precise panels. Similarly, the story is trimmed of any unnecessary elements leaving a spare, sad and beautifully resonant story.

Finally, I want to touch upon the book as an actual, physical item. God, they say, is in the details. Rarely has this seemed more true than with Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. The book is lush with detail: florid prose, seemingly ripped from turn-of-the-century pulp comics, encourages and exhortates the reader from front and back cover. Various types of diorama corresponding to events in the story are provided at intervals, complete with tongue-in-cheek assembly instructions (as if any reader would be so foolish as to take a pair of scissors to such a gorgeously constructed book). This is the rare example of a graphic novel collection adding up to more than the sum of its' parts.

I rate this book 5/5 stars. Highly recommended.

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