Sometimes when I switch from one book to another, it takes me a while to adjust to the new writer's style. It's fine once I do, but there's often that initial hurdle. I don't remember ever having that feeling with a graphic novel before. Maybe the first time I read manga?
To some extent that's what happened while reading Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth. Ware's style is different than most graphic novels I've come across. The drawings themselves— simplistic characters with thick outlines, attention to detail in the backgrounds— reminded me of Seth's work, but it's the use of panel sizes that sets Corrigan apart. All of his panels are rectangular, but he uses small, sometimes even tiny, squares to focus on details, while scanning out to show more or to capture the mood in larger blocks. The issue is that this creates a sometimes complicated, Tetris-y layout and though he occasionally uses arrows to help a reader out, it takes some getting used to.
As for the writing itself, that took some getting used to as well, though as Ware acknowledges in an apology at the end, what was intended to be a short-lived newspaper serial grew into something much bigger. This growth is evident in the final collection. On the publisher's website Jimmy is referred to as a "lonely and emotionally impaired 'everyman'". I can acknowledge the average
Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth is not a comfortable book by any means, but few intelligent books are. While I'd probably not list it among my favourite graphic novels, I certainly admire the ambition.