Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #98: November, November
I’ve talked in the past about how much I love short blasts of story. There’s honestly little better to me than picking up a novella after a long novel. And what Matt Fraction, Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth, and Kurt Ankeny have crafted with the second volume of their graphic novella series, November, is nothing short of an absolute marvel of comic storytelling in less than eighty pages. As a creative force, these four creators have come together to tell one of the most exciting and structurally interesting stories to come out of Image.
November is three-pronged story: Dee is a woman contracted by Mister Mann to broadcast short-wave radio signals from a tenement roof; Emma-Rose found a gun in a puddle and is currently being kidnapped; Kowalski is a police dispatcher three shifts deep as bombs go off across her city. Their stories all intertwine according to what we need to know as readers. It’s one of the more clever tricks the creative team works with across these two volumes. As we’re at the second volume, we’re starting to get a larger sense of the happenings in this unnamed city. Emma-Rose was simply unlucky and kidnapped; now we see her tenacity in trying to escape as well as the past that brought her to the city. We see more of Kowalski as she attempts to solve the broader mystery of the crime scenes she has been receiving calls from. And Dee. Well, Dee is having a rough night.
What makes the second volume of November such a good piece of comics is the way in which Fraction, Charretier, Hollingsworth, and Ankeny have constructed their work. This non-linear storytelling helps to heighten the tension and unfold the mystery slowly. We could have all three stories concurrently, but then we lose opportunities to get to know the characters better. So we have this chronological balancing act where Kowalski’s story is coming hours after Dee and Emma-Rose’s, but the emotional beat we’re given from her perspective fits right into the tension of Dee’s story afterward. It feels like it shouldn’t work and yet I could feel the tension building in my heart throughout.
What Fraction, Charretier, Hollingsworth, and Ankeny have proven with the second volume of November is that graphic novellas work. We’re seeing more and more of this thinking—single issues/volumes with a higher page count released less frequently—in other mainstream publishers, like with DC’s Black Label series, and the results are almost all universally strong. This is a good direction to go in.
Get excited. Get into the future.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.