Plot doesn’t play a big part in Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid in the World. We follow Jimmy as he meets the father who deserted him when he was young (with some detours into the past when Jimmy’s grandfather was a kid). But it’s probably best to approach this book as a mood piece, the moods here being loneliness and regret.
There are many scenes of awkward conversations and even more awkward silences. Jimmy, though thirty-six, has trouble connecting with people verbally, often stuttering, laughing nervously, or barely responding at all. And the environments Jimmy moves through (apartments, diners, small town intersections) are drawn in a simple manner that make them feel listless.
Writer/illustrator Chris Ware uses his style to enhance the content. Most of the minor characters are shown with their faces turned away or covered up, which adds to Jimmy’s emotional isolation. There are a lot of smaller panels that slow the pace down. And many panels contain no dialogue or sound effects, making Jimmy’s world a quiet, empty one (though there’s a lot of coughing in this book). Ware uses solid lines and colors, and he often keeps his backgrounds minimal, though he’ll get quite detailed when the scene calls for it, as in his depictions of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair.
The book is a bit relentless in its melancholy tone, with few moments of joy or triumph for the characters. It wouldn’t have worked as a movie (unless you like boring, artsy films where characters stare at each other and you’re supposed to guess at what their thinking), but Ware chose the best medium with which to tell this particular story.Powered by Sidelines