Writer Matt Fraction and artist Elsa Charretier have constructed a series of mysterious and shady tales with the first volume of “November.” Along with colorist Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Kurt Ankeny, this first chapter brings along a group of intertwined stories all caused or affected by one another. The grimy urban atmosphere and non-linear progression of the story make this conspiratorial plot a convoluted but riveting page-turner.
“The lives of three women intersect in a dark criminal underground. As fire and violence tears through their city over the course of a single day and night, they find that their lives are bound together by one man—who seems to be the cause of it all.”
Writing & Plot
Matt Fraction starts off “November Vol.1,” the first in a three-part series, by giving the reader both as much and as little information as possible to progress the story. The use of drug addiction, criminal manipulation, and police corruption dance about the plot in obscure shades that force the reader to put the pieces together themselves. This non-linear and purposefully obscure manner of crime noir delivery is sure to frustrate some, but it’s a riveting puzzle for those that wish to partake in it. The dialogue is varied greatly among the cast of characters, from the three protagonists and beyond. There is a sense of scale created by utilizing three people in different walks of life that makes the conspiracy feel giant despite the limited information given. The majority of the characterization is given via internal narration, which again is both obscure and tantalizing. There’s a deeply human tragedy running through at least two of the characters (especially the first woman) that makes the story feel all the more intimate. The ending is where much of what’s happening is put together more clearly and makes the desire to read the next entry all the more strong.
“November” Vol. 1 benefits greatly from having the unique artistic touch of Elsa Charretier. There’s a mixture of human detail and cartoonishness that brings to mind the work of Michael Avon Oeming in Powers. The people and environments feel tangible and realistic despite their unique designs. A large part of the is attributed to the colorwork from industry veteran Matt Hollingsworth, who bathes whole sequences in matching dreary colors. Pale blues, dark oranges, and most commonly pale greys and blacks create a foreboding and dreary atmosphere for this tale of conspiracy and woe to take place in. Moments of existential dread, sorrow and panic are realized in broken up in sometimes seemingly inconsequential mages that still tug the story along with a methodical pace. This is a book that is as striking visually as it is in terms of the script.
An easy to overlook creative element to “November” that deserves mountains of praise is Kurt Ankeny’s lettering. All of the lettering is presented in a hand-written style that looks more like a stack of notes than comic lettering. Like reminders left on the refrigerator door, Ankeny’s letters deliver the scattered clues, thoughts and words to the audience in a fashion that brings more intimacy and atmosphere to the story.
“November Vol. 1: The Girl on the Roof” is an intriguing puzzle to begin a story with. Fraction’s script offers excellent characterization and dialogue while divulging just enough plot to keep the reader invested. The visual work from Charretier, Hollingsworth, and Ankeny offers a distinctly intimate and grim atmosphere that is perfect for the grimy urban conspiracy at play within these pages. If this sounds like the kind of comic experience you’re up for, this first of three parts is currently available for order from your local comic shop.