cover image Plummet


Sherwin Tjia. Conundrum, $20 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-77262-040-5

This visually ingenious graphic novel opens with Mel, an ordinary young woman, inexplicably falling through an infinite expanse of sky. With the initial panic out of the way, she settles into her bizarre new existence: sleeping and relieving herself in midair, using her jacket to glide like a flying squirrel, and scavenging food and water from the mundane detritus and household objects and appliances plummeting around her. “Do I just keep falling forever?” she wonders, a question this graphic novel leaves, so to speak, up in the air. The brightly colored, snappy art belies the darkness of the narrative, which develops into absurdist survival horror tinged with grim humor and occasional moments of grace. Above all, the book is a virtuoso artistic exercise, allowing Tjia (The Hipless Boy) to depict an endless variety of falling people and objects and scenarios where they attempt to interact. Mel eats from a falling vending machine, climbs through a tumbling apartment building, scales an upside down tree, and falls through a lake. She also fights fellow survivors (“This whole place is like the Wild West—everyone marking territory, suspicious of strangers”) and eventually finds a friend. If sometimes it all feels more like a drawing challenge than a complete story, the reader is inexorably pulled along the remarkable slide down, in this unsettling fable of life in freefall. [em](Oct.) [/em]