cover image Building Stories

Building Stories

Chris Ware. Pantheon, $49.99 (260p) ISBN 978-0-375-42433-5

Ware provides one of the year’s best arguments for the survival of print. In more than 200 pages spread over 14 separate printed works that include broadsheets, booklets, and full-sized books, Ware tells the visually stunning story of a nameless woman as she lives a quiet, frustrated life in Chicago. Ware gives voice not only to his nameless heroine but to the people who pass through and fill her life, peering in on the dysfunctional couple that lives below her, the wistful memories of the woman’s ancient landlady, the old and crumbling building she lives in, and even the comedic blunderings of a bee named Branford, bringing together stories filled with grief, doubt, and self-loathing. Ware’s paper archipelago can be read in any order, making his heroine’s progression from single apartment life to dissatisfied motherhood in Oak Park, all the more personal, as if the reader is leafing through her memories, rather than following her linear story. Ware’s artwork consistently overshadows his creation’s anxieties, her frets and worries made even smaller and pettier by Ware’s intricate and expansive art. But the spectacular, breathtaking visual splendor make this one of the year’s standout graphic novels. (Sept.)