Friday , June 14 2024
The Great Beyond - Lea Murawiec

Graphic Novel Review: ‘The Great Beyond’ by Lea Murawiec, from Drawn+Quarterly

The Great Beyond

The Great Beyond by Léa Muraweic, published by Drawn and Quarterly, is modern speculative fiction at its best. It balances drama, comedy, and social critique in a way that drives the characters and plot like a runaway car with the reader in the passenger seat. The action dashes through crowded scenes, breathes in solitude, and then leaps into another flurry of adventure as it follows Manel Naher. Manel has the same name as a famous music star, which proves to be a problem in a world where a remembered name is literally life.

Lea Murawiec - The Great Beyond

At first in The Great Beyond, Manel is not worried about her name being remembered. She has a family, though she is not close to them, and friends, in the bookstore owner and her pal Patrick. While others say she should do more to get her name out there, Manel is more interested in escapist literature and dreaming with Patrick about running away to the Great Beyond, the wooden countryside outside the city away from the constant barrage of people advertising their names.

Everything changes when Manel has a heart attack, a near miss with death caused by so few people thinking of her name. In desperation to live, she launches a campaign for fame.

Muraweic’s world-building in The Great Beyond establishes a thought-provoking what-if. If someone’s name is forgotten, they grow old, weak, and die. On the other hand, if people are always thinking of a name, that person achieves immortality. Manel criticizes those who do horrid things like commit mass murder to be remembered even for the bad, while she works a boring job reading over huge lists of names of clients who pay to ensure that they are remembered. The background art is packed with advertising showing names of all backgrounds, a believable sight in a world where holding space in someone else’s mind is not just nice but necessary.

A Storm of Attention-Seeking

The Great Beyond is a captivating exploration of our modern interconnected society. Humans have always wanted to be famous, of course, but never before have we existed in a world where one person with a social media account can become part of the lives of untold millions. This fame can lead to personal wealth or even social change, making it an enormous commodity. Many people in The Great Beyond work constantly toward achieving such levels of fame, which creates a maelstrom of attention-seeking where many of us can become faceless within the multitude. Manel learns just this lesson as the people around her begin to drop away when even she does not think of them.

The art fits the chaotic world well. Muraweic’s bio describes her as an “avid manga fan,” which is clear in her style, which includes the looping cartoony characteristics of comix and zines. Techniques from these blend well in a comic that is nearly monotone in some places and splashed with color in others. The backgrounds are geometric and organized, giving even more emphasis to the fluidity of the characters, especially Manel as she lashes out trying to be remembered at any cost.

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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