The Nao of BrownBook |
Living in the Nao can be dangerous, but rewarding
The lead protagonist of The Nao of Brown, Glyn Dillon's first full-length graphic novel, is a young woman trying to cope with a steady onslaught of morbid thoughts. An aspiring illustrator and toy designer living in England, Nao Brown is slight of build and fairly harmless-looking, but thanks to a particular sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder, she constantly imagines herself murdering complete strangers. The narrative introduces her at a relatively low point: newly dumped and unemployed, she takes a job at a store owned by an old art school friend that specializes in Japanese toys. Being half-Japanese herself, Nao finds some solace in the shop's familiar wares as well as at the local Buddhist temple; she even meets a potential new love, but unfortunately, it's never long before her anxieties start to make trouble -- and threatens to sabotage any chance at happiness.
Dillon cuts back-and-forth between objective reality and images representing the title character's morbid imagination. The moments of violence are shocking, thanks to the author's gift for realistic body postures and expressive facial features, not to mention his liberal use of rich, deep reds that hint at the intense emotions being felt by the main character. Though the narrative is definitely serious at times, what keeps it from being weighed down by angst are touches of whimsy: At one point, Dillon illustrates Nao's fantasy of popping the emergency exit of a plane while in mid-air in the style of those instruction cards handed out during commercial flights. In addition, the author mixes in tales of Pictor, a mystical half-human, half-tree creature, who like Nao is a walking contradiction. Though the ending leaves some narrative threads up in the air, as rich and unique graphic novel experiences go, there's nothing quite like Nao right now.
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