Graphic Novel Review 95/365: Empire State

Please keep up with all of my old Graphic Novel Reviews here as I quest for 365 in 365 days!  Or hit up #GN365 on Twitter.

No crazy theme this week, just some graphic novels that I think you should know about!

Title: Empire State 

Author(s): Jason Shiga

Publisher: Abrams (2011)

Age Rating: 13+

I had to go to the used book store yesterday to pick up a couple of books for my best selling novels class, and as I was there, I drifted to the graphic novel section…as one does.  And as this 365 day journey pulls me further and further from hero books, I found a few non-hero gems, and I would like to review one of those gems for you today: Empire State.

This simply constructed graphic novel tells the tale of an early 20’s guy, Oakland native, named Jimmy as he tries to figure out life, his place in it, and the exploration of possible mates.

I say the book is simply constructed for a few reasons.  Here, check out a page:

95% of the book lives in either a monochromatic blue or a monochromatic red color scheme; the images are clean, but simple, and there is a lot of use of blank space on the pages.  So much so that I’d say the space between the panels is more than what we would consider gutters.  This blank space on the pages is unique, but more than unique, for me it symbolizes Jimmy’s empty life.  Jimmy wants more to fill his pages, but he has yet to figure it all out.  This above page is his introduction to NYC.  He is busy, involved, and a bit overwhelmed…hence, not a lot of blank space.  However, check out this page:

Sitting at a coffee shop in NYC with his friend Sara, whom he loves but is not getting the vibes back, in the middle of figuring out who he is, Jimmy is surrounded with much more blank space.  And Jason Shiga uses the blank space well throughout the graphic novel.

This is not an overly emotional book.  It’s real.  And it’s honest.  But it’s not one of those “it changed my life” type of books.  The panel layout and the simplicity of the art make up for the lack of emotion though, and it will be an interesting addition to your graphic novel collection.  I might even use a few pages to illustrate Shiga’s brilliant use of blank space and how it affects the read.

Happy reading!

Eric

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