Elliptical, opaque, and episodic, I’m Not Here (Koyama Press), the latest comic from the enigmatic GG, wraps itself in a mystery that it only ever approaches with a parallax view. An unnamed girl encounters her doppelgänger on the street and has a dream. That’s the entire plot of I’m Not Here, but GG splays it out over nearly 100 pages, winding up her characters and setting them to live in the silences, pauses, and liminal, transitional spaces. When the protagonist of I’m Not Here encounters her doppelgänger, she does so only briefly, glancing at her for a brief instant—through the viewfinder of a camera. Her experience functions as a convenient metaphor for readers’ experience with the book itself.
GG draws with incredible clarity. Her lines are precise and clean, appearing effortless, which no doubt means they’re the product of countless hours of labor. Her panel transitions are immaculate, so there is never any confusion or disorientation between moments. And GG prevents anything from obscuring those graceful lines, going so far as to separate all the dialogue and narration from the art, locating it beneath its corresponding panel. Everything is neat and ordered, carefully put in its place, just-so and with intent. With this meticulous attention to detail, GG crafts something precise and clear. Everything is offered up for the reader on a silver platter. But it’s with an equal attention to detail that she subverts and confounds that clarity.
She transitions between scenes with several blank or black pages, which makes each of the book’s moments feel disjointed from one another. Character’s relationships are never explained, so their tensions and anxieties are hazy, with their presence felt without being clearly defined. That choice of discretely separating the art and the text visually clarifies both, but it also disjoints them; they exist on separate planes and feel detached from each other. Even the book’s dénouement, which GG distinguishes by rendering it with a gray tint, offers readers no concrete resolution. That’s not to say that the book is confusing or otherwise impenetrable. Rather, GG leaves her readers to quietly intuit the significance of facial expressions, silences, encounters—to make sense of them in their own way, at their own pace, in their own time. There is a patience to everything GG does. It defines her aesthetic, and this quality shines through as clearly in her writing as it does her drawing. The only way to engage with I’m Not Here is to take it as it comes, to sit with it, to listen to it speak. Giving yourself so totally over to a text may seem difficult, but it’s also commensurably rewarding.
Like all aesthetic choices, this will of course alienate a certain contingent of readers (or potential readers), but, for others, it will create an inviting and comfortable space. And, if a reader is so inclined, I’m Not Here offers a space they may easily get lost in.