The Spectators is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Victor Hussenot, published by Nobrow Press.
Let me preface this by saying I’m a sucker for art. For real. When walking into my LCS or browsing indie publisher catalogues, I will 100% of the time order a book if the art is killer. I don’t have to know the writer or even the artist; if the illustrations knock me on my ass, I will buy that comic. The Spectators sent me on a similar trajectory.
The first thing you notice 100% is the art style. Not for the reasons you’d assume though. It doesn’t pop, and it’s not over complicated. It doesn’t pull you in. Instead, you gravitate towards it as if you have no other choice. It’s soothing. Soothing because of its warmth. The colors in this book are meant to provoke an emotional response from its readers. There’s a depth to each color because of how Hussenot decides to use them. Whether it be the cold blues he uses for the book’s cityscapes or the earthy greens and yellows for its plants and forestry, depth is found in even the most obvious of color choices and that is a testament to Hussenot’s skill.
The art stands alone in the book. Without words or dialogue, this book wouldn’t be too hard to understand, and I believe that’s what makes great storytelling in comics. When you can take out all the dialogue and words from a comic and still are able to follow the story, the artist has done their job, well above and beyond. It’s a treat, honestly, this art. It’s almost luxurious in how comfortable you feel just gazing upon it. It guides you as you float from page to page, unsure of how you know you’ll keep moving forward.
This graphic novel relies much more on its art than its words to tell a story, which means that The Spectators is not your average comic. These days comics are very balanced between art and dialogue. Neither overwhelms each other, it seems, which is a huge contrast to 10-30 years ago, when comics were so heavy with dialogue they made The Dark Knight Returns seem like a picture book. I think it’s great, and have gotten used to this harmony between the writing and the art. Spectators uses its dialogue as more of a melody.
On almost every page you get a line that doesn’t so much drive the narrative forward a gives you something to think about, and that is a huge reason I dig this book. It wants you think. Victor Hussenot wants to challenge you. He wants to challenge the way you look at things and analyze them. In this book he isn’t saying anything new. He’s not mapping out new ground. He’s just asking you to look again.
The book is split into different narratives, all following this theme of perspective and observation. The Spectators is a book that explores modes of reflection. Each narrative follows characters who are usually doing nothing more than looking beyond themselves. They’re watching and staring and wondering about the world that surrounds them, the world that was built for them. They think on their decisions and the paths that they’ve trod on. This is a book that borders on the sentimental and is aware of that, I believe. And for that reason, it never crosses the line.
The Spectators is a wonderful book and it’s earnest. With its art leading the charge, the narrative asks more questions than it answers and that’s it perfectly fine because more than anything it wants to challenge your perspective and get those mind gears grinding. The Spectators is the type of book I want to see more of.
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