Writer – Adam Hayter Artist – Megan Stevenson
This 60 page graphic novel immediately did what a good book is supposed to do. It grabbed me. The opening pages present not just a concept, but a thought and realization that populates all of our minds. We often find ourselves projecting our lives and the issues that make it up onto others. Other times we find ourselves wondering and getting caught in thought about who or what the people around is are or could be. As we go about our daily lives in both the remarkable and unremarkable … so does everyone else. Just because we’re not aware doesn’t mean it isn’t happening nor is it without its own complexities.
The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.
These lives all have their own motivations, goals, and desires driving them. That’s what sets everyone on their path. The means to all of our ends is what sometimes sends otherwise unconnected lives on a crash course with one another. In SONDER we’re given a group of lives that seemingly wouldn’t ever intersect. It all starts out “on a dark and stormy night” which, when thrown against the deeper overriding theme of the book, serves as the perfect juxtaposition. Adam and Annabelle serve as the conduit through which these lives intersect. Bad choices, lack of drive, or maybe a simple care free attitude could all be explanations as to why Annabelle finds herself where she does. The girlfriend of a lead singer would undoubtedly have its pitfalls but still be pretty snazzy. On this dark and story night though a pitfall rears its ugly head and the lives presented in SONDER begin to intertwine. The rest of the tale expounds on the idea that each of us lives a life of intricacies and complexities. Within those sit the basis for the choices we make and actions we take. Outwardly there’s a ripple that, despite how disconnected most of us are from each other, even if not even directly noticeable does create a wave in the greater ocean of life. As we dream up an entire life for the self-absorbed individual talking entirely too loudly on their cell phone as they walk in-front of us we have no idea who just sat in the bar before we got there. What skeletons hide in the closet of the good samaritan that walked up and kept the ne’er-do-well from doing who knows what? How do we know the off tasting food isn’t off tasking on purpose? Our lives are complex. Life itself is complex. Sometimes worlds collide, other times they intersect, and sometimes they just pass by on the same sidewalk.
Putting that idea down on paper and having it come across effectively is no easy task. Adam Hayter does this pretty well overall. SONDER works. While there are a few places that seemed choppy or cut a bit they do not take away from from the intricate broader story and idea that he shapes. Within the graphic novel he’s tied Annabelle and Adam to two bar/cafe workers, a crime family, a female from high society, and detectives. The element of suspending belief as a reader is needed in order to get past the surface of the characters as they clunk about in order to let the overarching idea pass through. To some degree I feel this is done on purpose. Opening the window to what is being lived completely outside of our own awareness is the driving aspect of the story presented and suspending that belief in order to allow the page to tell the larger story really lets the story shine. There’s a great big wide world out there and Hayter snatches up a comic book yet realistic sampling of what is out there. Let yourself open the window and you’ll see.
The book itself is beautiful. Megan Stevenson has done a wonderful job with the art. Her style brings thoughts of Liana Kangas to mind which is a very good thing. The best part of the art is the personality given to each individual and what they’re meant to represent. The care free and the snooty are given equal care and presented with the same flair. For the idea of SONDER to come across the differences in who we are, where we reside, and where we’ve come from all have to be present. They’ve all got to appear equally complex and intricate. Stevenson’s characters do this as their own personalities permeate both the images and story.
I enjoyed SONDER. It presented an idea I’d yet to see truly explored on its own. All of the elements fit well and the book looks gorgeous. For a world that moves a hundred miles per hour all the time it was nice to read about an idea that pays attention to the broader scope that surrounds us all regardless of whether or not we realize it. There’s a story in everyone. Everywhere we go we’re grazing who knows what and this close to colliding with so much more. Open your eyes a bit and see for yourself.
Comic artist, cat lover, creator of the Ringo Award-nominated webcomic The Croaking on Webtoon. https://patreon.com/megjstev