Comics Review – November Volume 2 by Elsa Charretier and Matt Fraction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

November volume 2 picks up in the immediate aftermath of the first volume that came out last year. This volume is about the same length as the first volume, coming in at about 80 pages. I think the release model for the series is pretty interesting. You’ll end up with amounts to a pretty hefty graphic novel coming out in three chunks over the course of about 18 months. It’s an interesting approach, but I do feel like it held this second volume back a bit.

Given that the series works as one big story, this second volume is all second act. It’s also a bit backward looking, seeing how each character got to the current point in time, and doesn’t really advance the narrative much further than what we saw at the end of the first volume. This would be fine if the story was contained in a single book, but it did make this second entry feel a bit less compelling. Nonetheless, there’s still the same hard-boiled mystery and I like the characters that Fraction has laid out. I’m having a lot of fun reading this series. Like I said, my only real beef with the story here is that it feels like it would be more successful all at once.

I definitely need to talk about Elsa Charretier’s art. She’s just knocking it out of the park. I had a bit of exposure before-hand to her work, but this story is such a good fit. It struck me reading this volume that the combination of genre and line-style is reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations. That seems like about as high amount of praise as I could give an artist. Combined with Matt Hollingsworth’s colors, the art is a perfect match for the kind of crime drama Fraction has written.

Speaking of colors, I really love the way that Hollingsworth and letterer Kurt Ankeny use a different color tint and different lettering style to differentiate the passages from each character’s point of view. Those kinds of small design choices can really heighten the story-telling. The design by Rian Hughes similarly adds to the feel. The two-page spreads signaling chapter breaks look good and are effective at establishing the tonal shift as the story moves between characters. Between the art, lettering, and design, the book is just so visually appealing. My only gripe is that Ankeny’s choice for the cursive lettering during the Kay sequence is actually very hard to read! I like the idea, but would have liked a style that was more readable.

In the end, the only big weakness of this second volume of November is that the plotting style doesn’t move the overall narrative ahead that much. It worked okay for me because I just read volume one about a month ago, but I’m curious to see what my experience will be with a bigger gap between reading volume 2 and 3. My guess is that this series will be one that’s more successful when read as one entity, even if each of the volumes end up being pretty enjoyable on their own. The creative team has certainly done enough to keep me around for the conclusion in volume 3.

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