Headspace Graphic Novel ReviewApril 28, 2015
Some might say that IDW’s graphic novel Headspace is a twisted tale that keeps you on your toes as you can’t help but turn the next page. While it certainly is a twisted tale, it didn’t quite leave me satisfied at its conclusion. Much like Inception and Lost did to viewers, Headspace asks a lot of questions and gives a lot of clues for which the reader never gets resolution. It tried to hit the mark by creating a compelling and complicated web of a story in 130 pages, but sadly all it did was seem to run out of room and leave me unsatisfied and disappointed.
Headspace starts with big questions as you’re introduced to Carpenter Cove, a place that is immediately revealed to be…different. Chaos rules the streets of this seemingly sleepy coastal town. And I’m not talking about the simple “civil unrest” kind of chaos: dragons, giant alligators, cyclops, tidal waves, and other terrors plague this little town. Enter Shane, the law in Carpenter Cove, who questions why (and how) he’s here, but doesn’t hesitate to be a beacon of what is good and just, always jumping in to try and restore order. Then he sees his son who’s been dead for three years…
Sound exciting so far? Well, it certainly drew me in. Unfortunately things get overly convoluted in such a rush after the introduction to Shane and his town that I felt like I was being hurried to get to some sort of big reveal. You learn that there’s a fugitive named Max on the loose, and he’s being goaded on by some disembodied voice that he’s trying to find. We then jump back to Shane who soon finds a mystery man explaining that Carpenter Cove is all in Max’s mind, and he’s a dangerous man.
Does this sound interesting? Sure it does.
Are you keeping up? Maybe.
Are you feeling overwhelmed a bit? I certainly was, and I was barely one-third of the way through the graphic novel.
That all sounds like enough information to handle for the majority of a story, but things get much deeper than this. You’re soon introduced to things like government espionage with secret and dangerous new technology, all while Shane and Max’s stories are told (and eventually intertwine). And it’s the characters that suffer from this style of harried storytelling.
I never truly got the feel for who Max or Shane actually were. It’s clear that they’re both damaged men with inner demons who’ve chosen different paths in life (or did they choose them…?), but their pasts are only briefly shown or told amid the increasing pressure building up in the pages. I can see that the author tried to let the panels tell the tales with minimal hand-holding, and I can appreciate the effort, but it didn’t accomplish this goal. Instead, I felt cheated out of a fully-fleshed out set of main characters, making the entire experience unfulfilling.
This is a severe disappointment, not just because I love a good story, but because the art and color of Headspace is quite good. I was particularly impressed by the splashes introducing each chapter. Eric Zawadzki does a lot with so little. He doesn’t need an entire page to create strong imagery, and the abundant use of blood red perfectly represents the violence prevalent throughout Headspace’s many panels.
Still, great art and coloring isn’t enough to save Headspace from its shortcomings. What starts as a promising story soon devolves into something that’s trying to be complicated just for the sake of complication. As a reader, I’m okay with twists and turns and deep paradigms in a story – in fact, I welcome this. But that story has to well-written, meaning that the beginning, middle, and end must be cohesive. Sadly, Headspace left me feeling frustrated by the many questions left without answers.
Have you read Headspace? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment regarding the stories harried pace and unanswered questions? Let us know in the comments below.
[Image via IDW Publishing]