"R.E.M." Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Spoke Lane Entertainment
Written by Ryan Colucci
Illustrated by Zsombor Huszka
2013, 176 Pages
When you get into the numbers, the amount of time we spend asleep is pretty scary. It amounts to about a third of our life. Think of that for a minute. If you live to be 100 years old, you would have slept through 33 years of that time. What if you didn't have to waste all that time in dreamland? What if you could get the equivalent of a full night's sleep in only a half hour? That's what neuroscientist Michael Letto has set out to do in R.E.M., but the process is driving him into a deep paranoia and his reality is starting to crumble.
Michael's world is a dark and strange one. His life has been consumed by this project. Soma, his “sleep chair”, is something that he needs to finish to receive some sort of closure after losing the love of his life. The details of this background are slowly brought to the surface as the comic progresses, making you feel for Michael in a big way. Finishing Soma will not bring this woman back, but it will provide him with peace and finally allow him to rest. Until then, everything he has has been put into that chair.
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He's not the only one interested in it though. Representatives from the military and a religious sect are looking to utilize Soma for their own means. At first it isn't clear if these people are real or if Michael is just seeing oddities where there aren't any thanks to his paranoia, but things get real quickly. How far will these people go to get their hands on Soma?
Michael's paranoia makes the reader constantly question what is actually real. Many scenes can be viewed from completely different perspectives based on how much you believe in the main character's point of view. Is the military really trying to get at Soma by nefarious means? Or are they approaching Michael in a calm, businesslike fashion? There are few things as frightening when a man cannot trust his own mind, and that's what Michael is facing here.
R.E.M. has the makings of a great thriller. It reminded me a lot of Darren Aronofsky's Pi in that the main characters in both stories are in similar positions. Both are working on something that can revolutionize the world, and are later pursued by a religious order and a another firm (the military in R.E.M. and Wall Street in Pi) to get their hands on it. The process drives the main character mad.
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Zsombor Huszka's artwork lines up with Michael's altered view of reality. The art direction is done very well as many panels are presented at non-traditional angles, providing you with a different outlook on the scene. Some of his character work is uneven though, especially Michael's brother James. He looks more cartoonish and doesn't fit with some of the excellent looking panels within the book. The main character is usually shown with a lot of detail. From the first moment you see Michael, you can tell he hasn't slept in days. He's run down and beat up. He has that buzzed look you get when you've stayed up too late and you're past the point where you're tired.
R.E.M. is presented in black and white. Usually I'm interested to see how these comics would look in color, but this one works better as it is. It matches up to the tone of the story. If anything, color would ruin the mood and distract from Michael's drab existence.
R.E.M. left me with a few questions by the end, but ultimately it made me realize the importance of a good night's sleep, despite the time it takes up. There were some weird elements like the religious order that came in and got real preachy, but what stuck out was how crazy Michael's life became. He couldn't trust anyone and had trouble discerning what was real. All that by a loss of a loved one and not sleeping.
R.E.M. can be purchased directly from Spoke Lane Entertainment at the book's official site.