Best Comics In October Part 1: Nao of Brown, Lovecraft, and Mars Attacks
Once a month the folks at 8th Dimension comics select the best comics for us to review. We're splitting the round-up into two parts the month to accommodate some of the brilliant longer works that debuted in their own section.
Glyn Dillon's graphic novel follows a half-English, half-Japanese young woman with severe mental disturbances as she desperately tries to navigate her life through a web of horribly violent thoughts. Anxiety attacks plague Nao at every turn, and she'll suddenly see herself plunging pens into the necks of passersby, or intentionally running over children with her bike.
Through it all, Dillon portrays her as a strange girl trying her best to overcome the deep sense of self-loss that comes with such problems. Through the loving artwork of the book that pulls from both Eastern and Western influences, Nao's search for a firm place to stand tugs hard at the heart.
One of the most telling backdrops is her relationship with Buddhism, the religion of her absent, drunken Japanese father. Having studied it myself for several years, it was both shocking and oddly warm to see both the best parts of the practices (Elimination of self, the flow of thought, and the meaning of empowerment through bodhisattvas) alongside the cold, hard reality that no religion, however benevolent, is free from abusive teachers and folks that just plain don't get how to interact with other people in a positive way.
In a sense, Nao of Brown is a highly existential, almost Siddhartha-esque tale of coming to know and love yourself despite your flaws. The battles are internal, but no less monumental for all of that. Such inner wars made Sandman a classic, and I have no doubt that Dillon's graphic novel will likewise be regarded as a seminal work in comic art.