The back cover copy of Daniel Clowes’ highly anticipated graphic novel, Patience, readies readers for “a cosmic timewarp deathtrip,” and you can bet he delivers. Clowes became a crossover success with his 1997 graphic, Ghost World, which was solidified as a cultural touchstone after the 2001 film adaptation.
At the opening of Patience, we meet married couple Jack and Patience in 2012: They’re young, happy, poor and talking over the news of their surprise pregnancy. But when Jack arrives home from another disappointing day of job hunting, he finds Patience has been murdered. Thrown into the utter horror and despair of losing his true love and unborn child at once, Jack holds onto his sanity by focusing on one goal: finding the killer.
But his quest for revenge doesn’t go so well, and before we know it, we’ve rolled straight into 2029, a future in which Jack is perpetually drunk, a benevolent dictator broadcasts speeches on television monitors everywhere and blue skin is en vogue. But a chance encounter with a twitchy engineer at a greasy pizza place reveals the key to Jack’s last chance at peace—a time-travel device.
He transports himself back to 2006 in order to track down one of Patience’s thuggish exes, whom he’s convinced is the killer, but things start to go down the tube fast, and Jack is forced to continually jump backward through the years, finally landing in 1985. As the timelines begin to unfold and intertwine, we learn Patience’s backstory and come to know her as more than just a driving force for our antihero’s actions.
Clowes’ acerbic wit and pop-culture savvy are on full display, with this time-travel story bringing heady films like Looper and Primer to mind along with David Cronenberg-esque scenes of body horror. The “Juice” needed to jump through time brings on intense, hallucinogenic side-effects, rendered in fantastical, surreal and almost too-vibrant color illustrations, and soon Jack must choose between the little sanity he has left and his mission.
Patience is a hardboiled, mind-bending detective story, but it is also a tender and deeply reflective love story that will hang around in the subconscious for many days after the last page is turned.