The high concept is interesting in “Memoir” and the first issue gives it to us right away, while establishing mood and tone. What suffers is the plot. The issue ends on what is, in-story, a surprising turn of events, but, for anyone who’s seen an ad for the comic or heard anything about it, is somewhat anticlimactic. It’s the focus on setting the tone that makes “Memoir” #1 so appealing, especially artist Nikki Cook’s depictions of the people in Lowesville, all seeming scarred or simply made ugly by events. It makes Trent MacGowan, our protagonist and point of view character, stand out as a stranger in town even more.
The first few pages of the comic outline the plot: ten years after everyone in Lowesville forgot everything, Trent MacGowan is investigating what happened. MacGowan is a little brash and cocky, very sure of himself, and watching him run up against obstacle after obstacle in Lowesville drives the first issue to a degree. It’s your self-contained, ignorant small town taken to extreme: everyone seemingly crazy, untrusting of outsiders, and fairly hostile towards MacGowan. Part of that is how Cook draws them all with more run-down faces, like something has left its mark on them all.
While we don’t learn much about what happened in Lowesville yet, what little we get is tantalizing. The first page, for example, raises a variety of questions with the liquid and who ‘they’ are. Later in the issue, something else is uncovered that raises even more questions. What could have happened to remove everyone’s memories and leave them all so affected beyond that? It’s a great idea.
Cook’s evocative art is striking in grey tones and works hard to give a specific visual impression of Lowesville and the people there. I keep coming back to the people of Lowesville because she manages to make them all so distinct and yet the same. All ugly and affected in the same way while looking very different from one another. That’s a difficult trick to pull off. She’s able to show a variety of emotions and expressions clearly. MacGowan is a very expressive character, often making his inner narration not entirely necessary. You can tell what he’s thinking by his face.
“Memoir” #1 doesn’t hit the ground running with a quick plot, preferring to take its time, an approach that has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that, by the end of the first issue, not much is new for anyone who was aware of the comic before picking it up. But, that’s a negative in the short term. On the whole, it’s an engrossing read that sets the stage well. Hell, I want to know what happened in Lowesville and isn’t that the point?