Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Nightmarist - What Is The Question?

The question is not, "Can Duncan Rouleau draw?"

We know the answer to that - he can.

The question, though, that is raised by The Nightmarist, the graphic novel from Active Images (which they were so kind as to send to me), is "Can Duncan Rouleau write?"

And the answer to that?

We shall see.

Greg wrote about this book awhile back, and I concur with his endorsement.

The Nightmarist is about a young woman who seems to have some great power in regards to the future of humanity (think Rick Jones in the Skrull/Kree War), but the power is in jeaopardy, as competing forces in the dreamscape are battling each other, with her dreams (and heck, her SANITY) as the battlefield.

Rouleau incorporates a very Chris Bachalo style in the comic, and it looks excellent, especially in the book's black and white. You name the art trick, and Rouleau busts it out in this book, as he goes full force with things like warped angles, photograph/drawing name the different style of drawing something, Rouleau most likely worked it into this graphic novel. I think this has to do with the fact that, before he sat down to produce the graphic novel, he sold an option on the Nightmarist as a film, giving him enough money to actually devote his time to coming out with the graphic novel, as compared to sneaking an hour or two every other day, working around other projects.

It is no surprise that the Nightmarist was optioned for a film, as the book is quite cinematic in feel. In fact, that is probably where Rouleau's greatest weakness (if you can call it that) lies - he is an extremely accessible writer, but at times, accessibility sometimes shows its face in the form of unsubtlety. Occasionally, Rouleau attempts to do some Morrison-esque thinking in the book, but even as he tries it, he seems to want to make it accessible at the same time. For instance, the whole idea of people doing bad things because they have bad dreams speaking to them - it's both high brow and low brow at the same time. It's a weird effect - and not one that I think works that well all the time.

Still, the book is effectively spooky (Rouleau and the black and white are a pefect match in this sense), and tells a complete story with a lead character (Beth) that you can become invested in. Also, there are plenty of cool moments mixed in. Of particular note is a scene late in the comic - as you all may know by now, when you have battles and such that take place mainly in one's mind, there's always that temptation to say, "Guess what? It WAS all in her mind!" It's a decent enough "Woah!" moment to try that, but it doesn't work for all stories. Rouleau, in this book, decides to have his cake and eat it, too, as he has that moment - but then quickly says, "No, this is for real." But I really admire him for managing to fit the "It was all in her mind!" angle into the story even when he wasn't going that story route.

So, while the key to this project is definitely Rouleau's artwork (as this story wouldn't work nearly as well if it were not for Rouleau's trippy depiction of horror scenes), I think we can answer the question.

Can Duncan Rouleau write?

The answer is yes.

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