Memoir #1

Written by Ben McCool
Art by Nikki Cook
32 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

One of the things I’ve found myself enjoying from Image Comics lately is the number of compelling-sounding projects by talents ready to step up their profile in the comics industry and have their big break-out hit. I’m not sure who at Image is bringing all of these new books in, but even when they don’t succeed creatively (they can’t all be a Walking Dead, Chew, or Morning Glories), the wealth of ideas and concepts have been impressive. So with that in mind, I figured it was time to scoop up Memoir #1 from Ben McCool and Nikki Cook; once again, it had a concept that seemed worth following through.

In Memoir we learn about Lowesville, a town where the entire population claims to have lost their memory simultaneously. And so, journalist Trent MacGowan is heading in to investigate and find out if there’s more to this story that meets the eye. Such as, for instance, the one person secretly contacting Trent claiming to remember what everyone else forgot. It’s a strong story hook, and based on that alone I wanted to read the issue. But unlike McCool’s work on Choker, this first issue doesn’t seem to quite come together. There’s a lot of clumsy exposition dropped onto the reader, and while I understand that McCool wanted to get a lot of backstory out quickly, there’s still a better way to do it than an information dump. In general, Trent also seems to be one of the worst journalists out there; short of standing in the middle of the street with an empty bucket waiting for answers to fall in, I’m not sure how he could do a poorer job of trying to hunt down a story. Unless he’s hoping to annoy everyone in town so strongly that they just have their repressed memories explode out of sheer rage, it’s a little mind-boggling how this person ever became well-known in his field.

It also doesn’t help that there’s too much of a jumble of ideas thrown at the reader in this first issue. Missing memories! Creepy children silhouettes in the forest! Dead bodies! Argumentative locals with bad teeth! A butcher shop with a questionable source of meat! Honestly, this feels like McCool watched one too many marathons of the British television show The League of Gentlemen and then stripped out all of the recurring characters. By the end of the first issue, there’s been such an overload of hooks that it’s hard to want to latch onto any of them; there’s too much to concentrate on and it’s a bit of a turn off.

I also found myself less than impressed with Cook’s art. I appreciate that she isn’t going for fashion plate characters, but it’s hard to tell at times if these people are supposed to be deliberately ugly. Our main character has a creepy, plastic expression that reminds me of a killer doll in horror movies that grins as it stabs you to death. He never looks natural, instead shockingly stiff and not quite right. That’s still better than other characters, though; I still can’t tell if the butcher is supposed to be deformed, or if he just has a weathered expression. It’s nice that Memoir is full of "real people" (complete with neck goiters and a serious need for orthodontics all throughout town) but it’s ultimately distracting.

Memoir is a book that I was jazzed about before reading, and I think there’s still a good core concept here just waiting to be explored. But between McCool throwing too many ideas out in the first few pages, some slightly clumsy writing, and the strange looking art from Cook, there’s not enough to keep me on board for the rest of the series. I’ve liked both creators’s work on other comics, but for here nothing seems to have quite clicked into place.

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