Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 103

The Nao Of Brown

by Glyn Dillon
Genre notes: life, love, and mental scramble
Pages: 208
ISBN: 1906838429 (Amazon)

The Nao of The Nao of Brown is half-Asian, half-Caucasian and suffers from a violent interior life. She has a few friends but seems distant and distancing. She is afraid of herself and Dillon’s exploration of her thought life gives merit to her fears. Yet for all of her fear and violence and actual, visceral anguish, Nao is a charming and beautiful young woman. I would want her as a friend. You probably might too. And from the outside, it’s easy to see why few people realize that she’s troubled any more than the next person on this sad, strange globe. In fact, she comes off at a glance better than a great number of us regular citizens. All of this means that Nao’s story, while dark and terrible and innately concerned with the depravity of the human spirit, is sold with a buoyant gait and trudges along with the delightful pluck of a three-year-old in slightly too large rain boots, kicking leaves and stomping puddles. The book is a delicate admixture of sobriety and humour, and it’s imbibing this concoction that carries the reader through, granting the pleasure and honour of coming to the place at which interpretation may begin.

The Nao of Brown is a wonderful collection of visual and literary themes, marked by a compassionate visual sense and a deeply dialogical atmosphere. It’s one of those books in which word and image conspire together in a harmony unusual for comics.

Dillon is not only an impressive illustrator and designer. His art always on every page aids his story, lending voice and colour to his characters’ dialogue—and to Nao’s narration. In a work in which the majority is filled with mundane conversation, Dillon invests his characters with expression, carriage, and posture such that their story would be incomplete if only left with their words. These are real people and they are rendered realistically save for the fact that Dillon captures them in the best possible moment—all in order of course that the reality their story should be validated by their presence.

The art is gorgeous, pencil and watercolour. Dillon couches his work in a rich tapestry of visual metaphor. Rich enough at least that there’s plenty of fodder for those willing to put the work in to interpret him. Visual motifs abound. From the recurring use of the circle to foreign and foreign-esque cartoon characters, everything evokes. The pages bleed with purpose. Even Dillon’s use of colour seems to bear on his meaning. Nao wears red. All the time. Every time. Until the times she doesn’t. The Nao of Brown is such a delight to the eyes that I find myself wishing every book looked like this—despite loving much the more simple work of Chris Ware and Jason. Dillon’s art breathes, it has life. And life is exactly what his story demands.

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Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

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