There’s just something about the storytelling style of Different Ugliness, Different Madness that I really enjoyed. It’s clearly a European comic based on the storytelling, but it’s very captivating. In a strange way I can only equate it to The Bridges of Madison County though obviously different. What’s really impressive is that the story moves from different timelines. I counted three total and it does it all within the first several pages of the opening. It all begins during the TV era in which an author on a talk show is talking about his book about radio personalities. This introduces us to the character of Lloyd Goodman. As the author begins to tell his tale we’re transported back to Lloyd’s time as he’s about to make his return to radio. There’s some mystery around why he’s returning and why he left in the first place.
After that we go to another timeline and meet Helen. She’s an old woman and she’s asked her daughter to bring her to a rundown train station. She won’t explain to her daughter why they’re there, but she just wants to sit on a bench for a few minutes. From there we flashback to Helen’s life as she travels via train. Every chance she gets she asks to use the bathroom and then talks to herself in the mirror. Well, not exactly, she talks to her twin in the mirror. Our second mystery is introduced as we’re left to wonder where exactly is this story going and is there some kind of supernatural element to it or is Helen just disturbed?
After running out of money, Helen is forced to hitchhike. She has some strange encounters, but after a car full of men try to assault her she stays off the road for a bit. Eventually she runs into a man and strikes up a conversation with him because of his car. He finally steps out of the shadows and reveals himself and he’s got quite the mug. Now you can probably understand the title if you’ve been paying attention.
The story is complex, but simple. These two characters’ bond quickly and though they don’t reveal their names and occupations to each other, they do reveal their deepest secrets to each other. What I really enjoyed was that it wasn’t a love story. There’s some elements towards the end, but overall their interactions are very human. Just two people relating to each other and more incredibly, able to see what makes the other special. Especially when they can’t see it themselves. There’s a lot of sadness and personal pain in this story. These two characters are baring crosses and it’s only through connecting to each other are they able to lighten the load.
Creator Marc Malès does a wonderful job with the character development. Particularly with Helen. It’s really her story as we follow her from early adulthood to old age. It’s amazing to see how she’s changed as a person in her old age. She really is a different person from when we see her. The dialogue is very accurate to each era. The TV era in particular was spot on and it was clever to have so many mediums present; a book about radio being marketed on the TV. The writing is great and again, captivating.
The art is in all black and white which is a strength for it. The clothing and technology are all era arcuate and really transport you to all of the different timelines in the story. There’s an incredible transition from old Helen to young Helen and you can really tell that they’re the same character. It’s pretty incredible, I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen this successfully done in the comic medium, but this was one of the few. Everything about the art is photorealistic. No details are spared making every panel look rich and full, but Malès maintains a style that fits the timelines.
By far, Different Ugliness, Different Maddness has been one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in a long while. It’s one that you want to put on your books shelf and recommend to others to check out. It also shows you just how incredible the comic medium is as this story isn’t about superpowers or heroes, but rather two people dealing with their personal problems together.
Different Ugliness, Different Maddness Creator: Marc Malès Publisher: Humanoids Price: $19.99 Release Date: 12/9/15 Format: Hardcover, TPB; Print/Digital