Graphic Novel Review: Wilson

“I guess this whole kidnapping thing makes me a little uncomfortable, Wilson.”

Daniel Clowes published Wilson back in 2010 but, with the movie adaptation coming out next year, it seems like time to consider what may be his best work since the groundbreaking Ghost World.

Title: Wilson
Author: Daniel Clowes

ISBN-10: 1770460071
ISBN-13: 978-1770460072

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A garrulous, misanthropic loner’s attempt to reconnect with his ex-wife and the daughter he never knew goes horribly wrong.

High Points

Clowes takes fragments of a man’s life, shapes them as one-page comic stories, and builds those into a coherent whole.

Low Points

Like some of Clowes’ other works, Wilson regularly changes style, from comic-book realism to clean-line stylizations to cartoony exaggerations. For whatever reason, I don’t find the cartoony style particularly engaging, or well-suited to this particular subject matter. YMMV.

The Scores

Originality: 4/6 As with past graphic novels by Clowes, a short description of the premise fails to capture the originality of his approach to the material.

Artwork: 5/6

Story: 5/6 What seems initially to be a bitterly funny take on the old-time full-page “Sunday Strip” reveals itself to be the story of a human life.

Characterization: 6/6 Clowes’ strong point has always been the ability to create complex, believable characters out of two-dimensional drawings. You probably won’t like Wilson, but you will recognize and believe in him.

Emotional response: 6/6 Thoreau wrote in Walden that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Wilson’s saving grace is that he has much of that in common with the mass of men.

Those around may wish he was a trifle quieter about his desperation.

Flow 5/6

Overall: 5/6 I look forward to the forthcoming film, which stars Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern, but I strongly recommend the graphic novel.

Forget all of that adolescent angsty superhero stuff. This is what first-world darkness really looks like.

In total, Wilson receives a score of 36/42.