By Dustin Cabeal
Out of the titles from Nobrow that I’ve read I’ve enjoyed them. That’s typically the case I find when I dig into a new publisher, but there’s an inevitable wall that’s hit. Not everything can be fantastic and amazing. There are going to be stories that don’t hit with readers and reviewers, and for me, that story is Out of Nothing.
Unless there is some deeper story that I’m completely missing, Out of Nothing is a graphic novel history of the world. Finding key points in human development to highlight along the way through the eyes of a time traveler. The time traveler, which is a blue-skinned woman resembling a child, witnesses, and lives throughout time. Taking many forms, walking with many people. She interacts, but not in a “changing the future” type of way. More like Quantum Leap in which she’s in someone’s body and going through the motions of life.
There’s a focus on the arts, industry, and science. The three honey bees that define humankind. Other than that, there’s not much else to this story. It rushes to the present, and that’s when this all gazing eye putters out. I’ve noticed this several times in comics and stories as of late. Everyone wants to mention the Large Hadron Collider, but since we don’t know what will happen when it’s done and turned on… it leaves this big empty spot. When the story hits this point, it becomes pure fantasy which doesn’t fit or match the rest of the story. After that, it goes to the future, which was generic and obvious. It’s Mars. I will spoil it for you because it’s not a spoiler as this information doesn’t change the outcome of the story in the least bit.
It is not particularly fun to “rip a book apart,” so know that I take no sick joy in saying that this was quite possibly the dullest graphic novel I’ve ever read. At one point I fell asleep reading it, and it only took me 45 minutes to read it. At no point was the story engaging or interesting. It just comes across as a watered-down history lesson, but so overly simplified that I’m not sure I can even call it a history lesson. It’s more like, “ here are some things I like from history, and we’re going to present them this way.” The one thing I will say about the story is that is very positive. The overall view of humankind is portrayed positively, like, “look at all we’ve done and made it through, this is pretty spectacular!” It does largely avoid all of humanities struggles. War is quickly mentioned but in the most inoffensive way possible. Poverty, racism, sexism, none of these are touched upon and in reflecting back through what I read it occurred to me that the story was very white. Granted, history favors white people, but even when it went into the future it was white. When it went to the way back past, it was white. I’m not judging it based on this, but it is worth mentioning.
The artwork is consistent. It’s not a style I gravitate to and while it does a decent job of telling the story. The characters look about the same and are only defined by the clothing of the time and their haircuts. I didn’t recognize young Albert Einstein until the narration told me it was him. When old Albert Einstein was show, I just assumed it was him, but even then, it wasn’t a great representation of the person. There are many strengths to the art style, but it ultimately doesn’t match what’s going on in this story.
Again, I don’t say this to be mean, but I struggle with figuring out who this story is for. Who’s the intended audience? It’s mostly historical, but not in a way that could be considered deep or insightful. I would be hard pressed to recommend it to children since it’s a bit irresponsible in how it portrays the world’s history. And granted, it’s not a history book. Its goal is to show how incredible humankind is and give some hope that we’ll perceiver and not die on this planet… you know, when we kill this planet. But at the end of the day, it comes across as a super condensed history of the planet. If that sounds interesting to you, then by all means, pick it up. For me, it was just too dull and unrelatable to be enjoyable, and the art was unfortunately not strong enough to distract from its weaknesses.
Out of Nothing