cover image The Hypo

The Hypo

Noah Van Sciver. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-60699-619-5

Van Sciver’s psychologically astute examination of what might be termed Abraham Lincoln’s “lost years” (1837–1842) is as gripping and persuasive as the best historical fiction. Despite success in the Illinois state legislature, Lincoln finds it difficult to adapt to life in Springfield, where he knows few people and struggles to maintain a law office with partner John Stuart, through whom he is introduced to Stuart’s cousin, Mary Todd. A tentative engagement to Mary is broken by Lincoln, who is plagued by her family’s disapproval as well as his own demons. Coupled with the dissolution of his law practice, this plunges Lincoln into a deep depression he calls “the hypo”—short for “hypochondriasis” and certainly a misnomer in Lincoln’s case. Van Sciver’s heavily researched story and artwork are executed in a straightforward style. His drawings have a freehand looseness, while his use of language has an authentic period sound. This characterization of Lincoln is thoroughly human and identifiable, tracking a shadowy but formative period in the very uneven life of a man who shows little signs of becoming known as one of the greatest Americans. A thoroughly engaging graphic novel that seamlessly balances investigation and imagination. (Oct.)