It can be fairly obvious at times when a story is trying to pull an emotional response out of you. For me it usually stops me in my tracks as I realize that it wants me to feel a certain way, but in acknowledging that I will also realize that it failed to do so. Great stories just make you feel, they don’t try to fool you or ask you to feel something they just do. Seven Holes for Air plays a different game. It can catch you with some of its planned emotional responses, but it’s unlikely. It’s actually playing the long con on you and waiting to the end. Because there are so many emotional flags raised during the course of the story, you find that when you get to the end that they’re all raised and it becomes too much to handle. For me this story hit hard and I’m sure my own personal experiences play a factor in that as they would for anyone, but really I think it’s just a testament of the quality of this story.
We meet Bob as he springs out of bed first thing in the morning and lights a cigarette. That’s the type of man Bob is. He’s handsome in a tough way and has a chiseled body due to working construction all of his adult life. As he heads into the bathroom to get ready for the day the sound of the show curtains being pulled back reminds him of his father. Our story quickly transports us to Bob’s past as he plays in the bathroom and his abusive father comes in and takes his toys and smacks him for being in there. We go back to Bob’s day to day life and we see him interact with his wife. He’s a bit old-school but it’s clear that he’s a loving husband that appreciates his wife. They talk about his day as he plans to pick up lumber for a shed for their daughter who is away at college and Bob’s doctor’s appointment.
You should have two flags raised by now.
Strangely enough we don’t stick with Bob, at least not this version. The story goes to a spaghetti western in which another version of Bob is shown. This part of the story is treated seriously, but at first it’s a bit of a shocker. It strangely makes sense because in a way it represents Bob’s personality and his convictions. After that we head back to the present timeline as Bob arrives at work. He notices that the rebar for one of the office building’s walls is suddenly gone and asks other workers where it’s gone, but they all tell him the same thing “ask Carson.” Carson and the Foreman won’t give Bob an answer so he informs them that he’ll be contacting the union about the wall and the fact that it’s being improperly built making it a safety hazard.
The last bit I’ll give you is Bob’s doctor’s appointment where he’s having a headache checked out. The doctor asks how long he’s had it and Bob tells him it’s been five to six weeks. The Doc looks concerned and runs some X-Rays. Bob waits for the results with his brother in-law who is there to make sure that Bob doesn’t bail on the appointment. Why you ask? Because this is the first time Bob has been to the doctor in his life; not just adult life either, but ever. The Doc tells him that he needs an MRI and gives him some pain killers in the meantime. After this is another flashback with Bob’s family in which he mouths off to his father and is locked under the kitchen cabinet for several days after being hit.
So… how many flags do you think you have raised?
I’m not going to tell you the ending, but I’m sure you have an inkling of an idea about where it’s going. The thing is that it’s not trying to hide from you. The story is fairly obvious, but the journey is what sucks you in. I was actually brought to tears at the end of this story and I knew exactly where it was going. That’s what I mean about all the flags raised. You think that it wants you to feel something terrible for Bob when he’s locked under the kitchen sink and sure you do some because it’s terrible that a child was treated that way, but you also know that he made it out of the situation and became a better man than his father. It’s that there are so many small moments that they build and build until you’re emotional overwhelmed.
At first the story is hard to get into. The narrative is that of a novel and often times tell you things that feel out-of-place in a comic book or are redundant to the visuals of the story. Eventually though you stop noticing that; I can’t tell you when exactly, but along the way I stopped noticing the narrative. Again it’s strange to find this structure in a comic book, but something about it worked really well for this particular story. Bob isn’t the warmest character. I disliked how he treated his brother in-law, but I accepted that it was just his personality. That’s one of the many strengths of this story; the characters have personalities and are very real feeling. I’ve meet many Bob’s in my life and this really does come across as a window into someone’s personal life, rather than a fictional story.
The art is rough and scratchy and at times downright ugly. It’s also perfect. It’s the perfect fit for the story, but it’s also a work of art in and of itself. I’m sure some people will be put off by it, but for me it was great and brought out all the emotions of the story. It’s much like the writing in which it seems simple and straightforward but is actually very deep and layered. I’m not sure about the coloring, but to me it looks like its water colored, but it could be digitally water colored as well. Its fits the art and story very well and the color hues add to the moods of the different scenes when needed. My one and only gripe is that some of the lettering doesn’t match the style of the story. There are times in which the setting is given at the top left of the page which isn’t really needed, but it doesn’t detract from the story either. The problem is the font is comical and the coloring is solid making it unlike everything else in the comic. It doesn’t kill the story, but it looks bad and out-of-place especially with the choice of red and white.
Maybe it’s just the sum of my personal experiences that made this story so damn good, but then isn’t that what a good story is supposed to do? Isn’t it supposed to draw upon our own personal experiences and become all the more realistic and immersive? I believe so and that’s what makes Seven Holes for Air such a powerful and moving story. Maybe you won’t be brought to tears by this story, but if you’re not moved by this emotional journey that exemplifies the strengths of this medium… then I don’t know why you read comics. I read them for stories like this, for experiences that stay with me long after I’m done reading.
Writer: John J. McLaughlin
Artist: Mick Reinman
Publisher: Arcana Studios
Release Date: 7/14/14