Writer: J.M. Bryan
Artist: Nenad Cviticanin
Letterer: Rob Jones
A review by Billy Seguire
One of the most painful experiences in life is the loss of a significant other. Losing your partner feels like losing a part of yourself, and the idea of moving past that point of isolation seems nearly impossible. Now imagine going through that suffering and having that person you’ve lost walk through the door. That’s where Closer #1 begins, but only where it begins. There’s a sense of mystery to this project that promises the potential to spiral out of control, creating a world centred around family, faith, and deepest desires fulfilled.
It’s the faith aspect of Closer that’s likely to be the most appealing to new readers. The church where Nathaniel attends his support group after the loss of Maria is an ominous place. There’s friction apparent between Nathaniel and church member Denise and this short interaction colours our perception of this church in a similarly negative light. Faith in Closer is treated from the perspective of an outsider looking in. With Bryan’s promise that it will play a key role in the themes of this book, I’m extremely curious to see where this aspect of the storyline goes.
On the more plot-centred level, we first meet Nathaniel Hopkins confessing to a murder. It orients Closer as a thriller in the old-school tradition, unravelling the mystery in retrospect as Nathaniel relates the story to Detective Sullivan Carver, a man with whom he already seems to be well acquainted. Nathaniel’s narration gives a noir tone to the proceedings, every memory described with meaning and a depth of emotion laced through every interaction. Our instinct is to trust that everything Nathaniel’s saying is true, but the noir tradition tells me that this single perspective is inherently unreliable.
The familiarity between characters in this story adds an interesting element of drama to even the most mundane elements. Nathaniel feels judged by the town, creating the sort of small town drama that can make every aspect of this feel intimate and personal. When telling Detective Carver about the church, all he needs to say to describe it is “the church on Seventh. You know the one,” because of course nothing is unknown. The town itself will need to reveal its secrets carefully, emphasising the shock of the creeping unknown to retain this mysterious atmosphere while moving the story forward.
Nenad Cviticanin’s detailed art gives a sense of realism to Closer that would otherwise be lost. It lends itself well to the investigative nature of the mystery, and readers can let their eyes wander around the page to discover the secrets of this community on their own. The black and white art style absolutely contributes to the grounded reality Bryan is creating, giving a stark yet nuanced backdrop to the narrative of a man desperately in love who finds himself wounded and questioning everything he once knew. Rob Jones also provides skillful letters to the project. This isn’t work that gets in the way of the story, but provides clear text, well designed to match the consistent inner through line of Nathaniel’s thoughts.
I’ll also applaud the decision to make Maria a burn victim. It’s a detail that at first doesn’t do much to forward the narrative, but represents a brave choice to eschew the traditionally beautiful female object of the noir narrative and instead present her as her own nuanced character. Although still used more as a plot device in the preview, the elements are there to allow Maria to become an interesting player in this story. Bryan is banking on Nathaniel’s love for Maria to win the reader’s hearts rather than relying on a character’s physical beauty to create empathy.
Support It! Most of the tiers on the Closer #1 Kickstarter are at a low enough price point to make supporting this book at the digital level an absolute no brainer. The fact that the comic has already been completed means you won’t be fearful of this project never reaching your home. While the usual risks of physical production still apply, Bryan has done a good job of incentivising the physical version of Closer #1 with multiple stretch goals that reward those who take the plunge with added benefits.
At the third stretch goal of $1200, all backers will also receive a digital copy of Closer #2 with their purchase, giving readers the entirety of J.M. Bryan’s full story for a reasonable price while also empowering an independent creator to continue pursuing what seems like an intriguing story worth following.