CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 5 . . . . October 5, 2012
Veteran award-winning and bestselling author Norah McClintock and illustrator Mike Deas have combined forces to produce I, Witness, a suspenseful, murder mystery-themed graphic novel. The story follows 17-year-old David Boone, who, in a chance encounter one night with a friend, witnesses a violent murder. Fearful of what may happen should the perpetrators come to know their identities, both boys decide not to report the crime to the police. Despite their silence, however, within a few days, two of David’s friends are shot dead in two separate incidents. Days and (presumably) weeks pass, and while the tragedy of losing his two best friends is not lost on him, David is ready to move on. That is until one of his classmates dies suspiciously on the train tracks and another is fatally shot while at school. For David, these deaths reawaken painful memories—from both his recent and not so recent adolescent past—and force him to question whether or not they are somehow connected. Driven largely by guilt and a need for redemption, David sets out to find the truth.
McClintock has crafted an intriguing story, one which is not only entertaining to read, but is also surprisingly complex and comprehensive despite occupying less than one hundred and fifty pages. Courage, along with notions of duty and obligation to friends, family, society, and oneself, is carefully explored. While David’s characterization drives these themes forward throughout the story, other characters—David’s father, a police detective, neighbours, classmates, etc.—are used effectively to support these themes while providing much needed contrast and diversity in the points of view possessed by the protagonist.
Deas' illustrations are wonderful additions to the story, working well to support and, at key points, enhance the text laid out by McClintock. The black and white artwork, while simple and sketchy at times, suits the gritty tone perfectly while splashes of red are also incorporated throughout in an attempt to highlight and bring attention and importance to scenes of violence. Panel arrangement, size, and shape vary widely for effect. This, along with perspective, is used tactically in the place of words to convey a great range of emotions and meaning.
Between McClintock and Deas, there is little in the way of redundancy. Much to the benefit of plot flow and pacing, each takes care not to duplicate the other’s efforts by conveying similar information. Moreover, the storytelling is a wonderful example on how not to create a narrative laden with an abundance of expository dialogue. Characters, by and large, maintain realistic conversations with each other, rarely speaking simply for the sake of explaining events and emotions. This allows for a great range of interpretation and speculation throughout the story and should invite more than a single reading of the book.
Readers who are admirers of crime and detective stories will surely find I, Witness to be an enjoyable and satisfying read. However, as this title incorporates many aspects and topics found in other genres, it should also attract those who are simply keen on reading graphic novels. Readers who are expecting laughter and quick humour, however, should perhaps look elsewhere as such devices are employed sparingly in I, Witness. As the novel contains scenes of violent death—the body count by book’s end totals five— and assaults, as well as references to mature topics such as sex, rape, and drug use, librarians should use caution in recommending I, Witness to certain younger readers.
Andrew Laudicina, a recent MLIS graduate from the University of Western Ontario in London, ON, currently resides in Windsor, ON.
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