By Shaun Simon Tyler Jenkins, and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Do you remember the days when you would read comics, not to catch up on your favorite character or understand how the universe is all-new and different and still the same, but to just read comics? You might pick up a book, just a random comic, and would read it it out of curiosity to see what it was about. I miss the simplicity of that, because I feel like its a lost skill I have to reacquire. Thankfully Neverboy #3 exists to put me on the path.
I knew almost nothing about Neverboy going in, and I might know even less now. But, I really, really enjoyed reading it.
For one thing, it seems like art is a big part of the book. One of the main characters, Julian Drag, is a painter who sells his work for drugs which he then uses for inspiration for more paintings! When he takes the drugs, he’s able to see the Imaginary Realm that exists alongside reality. The IR (Imaginary Realm) looks like this psychedelic, melting world of colors. Almost like a tie-dye Salvador Dali painting (such as the one above the cover). Neverboy himself, also experiences this as he interacts with a robot gypsy fortune-teller, the scenery melting away as reality impresses itself on his vision. The art is ugly in a sense, but in a good way. It feels like the real world is more jagged and grimy than the IR, as though the physics of the mundane are weighing everything down. I know Tyler Jenkins from his work on Image’s Peter Panzerfaust and here the art feels purposely more solid.
Neverboy is a former imaginary friend, a figment of someone else’s imagination who has to take special drugs in order to stay a real person. He has a wife and child, Rachel and Ben, which causes him to constantly worry about fading out of existence, yet his fear of losing them actually leads him further away from them.
Rachel wants her husband to be honest and be there for his family. Her friends try to convince her that lies and emotional distance are normal in a marriage, their own husbands using different coping mechanisms for “domestic bliss”. Rachel ignores this, knowing that if Neverboy can’t “be there” then their marriage is over.
Sure enough, Julian drags Neverboy away from a nice afternoon with his family, and Neverboy risks the IR and reality to get back to his family sooner. When he does, he finds Rachel and Ben gone and a written ultimatum.
I think there is alot of truth in this art, without it being implicitly spelled out. The artist who uses drugs for inspiration, the husband/father struggling with priorities and the wife/mother hoping for the best but thinking pragmatically.
Another reason this book impressed me enough to be TWF is the characters themselves. Something I feel like the most prominent writers in comics forget is that characters move stories, not ideas. And these characters connect me more to the story than the ideas. Drop Dead Fred, The Imaginary Friend, Don’t Look Under the Bed all deal with maginary friends coming to life but none of the characters in those stories feel as real as the ones in Neverboy, and Shaun Simon’s script deserves credit for that.
If you decide to try Neverboy #3 and feel lost, don’t count it as a negative. Use it as an opportunity to look for something new in the pages, whether its the motivations of the characters or how to enjoy getting lost in a comic book.