display | more...

One Week in the Library
written by W. Maxwell Prince,
art by John Amor and Kathryn Layno
Image Comics, December 2016


One Week in the Library is a graphic novel -- or, as Image puts it, "an experimental graphic novella". It is indeed experimental, being a dark and surreal retake on the popular SF/F theme of magical libraries.

The story follows the librarian, who, as you have probably guessed, works in a magical library containing magical books; in this case, the library is magical because it contains All The Books, including some that may not be strictly real, and the books are magical because they can bleed over into reality (and vice versa), at least within the confines of the library.

We see seven days in the life of the librarian, days of unusual chaos and surrealism. While the baseline weirdness of the library is apparently quite high, it's starting to get worse. The books are starting to throw out characters -- and suck in the librarian -- at an alarming rate. And if these are the books we know in our universe, something dire is happening. Characters that we recognize are living out nightmarish parodies of their plots... not that the librarian appears to be aware of this.

The book appears to be an experiment in how many formats and random ideas the author can get between the covers. There's a short story in text, flashes of unrelated panels, a nonsensical infographic, a story sequence with no words, and multiple story-within-a-story sequences, in addition to more traditional comic book sequences. The fourth wall is firmly broke, The Matrix is reentered, and drugs are taken. There are some dark scenes, with suicide and murder and eyes gouged out, and random scenes with bears in tutus and children playing with the aforementioned gouged eyeballs. It is nihilistic, dadaism, and surrealism, imbibed with something akin to meaning, if you care to look for it.

I don't much care for it. The art is sometimes quite imaginative, and magic libraries, no matter how random, have an attraction. But you are not encouraged to like, or even believe in, any of the characters, the plot is essentially an aggressive antiplot, and the setting refuses to follow any particular aesthetic. It comes across as an uninspiring attempt at describing a series of bad drug trips.

This is probably worth checking out if you like dark surrealism, as it does have some interesting elaborations on the magic library trope (in passing), and plenty of cultural references that are subverted in a well-blended chaos. The art is perhaps too chaotic, but mostly well done and with some amusing nuance. However, if this description didn't sound like definitely your sort of thing, I won't try to convince you otherwise. It was not my sort of thing.