Negative Space Gets a TPB Release This Week

Negative Space, by Ryan K Lindsay and illustrated by Owen Gieni, is one of the more astute and creative explorations of depression ever committed to the page, and this week it’s available from Dark Horse Comics in a new trade paperback edition. A fantasy and science fiction epic, Negative Space stars the androgynous hero “Guy”, a writer struggling with depression (don’t we all?) who becomes the focal point of a centuries-long struggle between aliens that feed off of negative emotions and the humans who have devoted themselves to keeping them fed, by encouraging society towards dark notions. By the end of the four-issue run, our pre-existing notions of the usefulness of depression and indeed its necessity (sometimes) have been called into question, all in the context of a great sci-fi adventure comic.

We’ve previously reviewed the individual issues, but the main takeaway, thematically, here is that depression can be a weapon as well as a handicap. The Evorah (the afore-mentioned aliens who have threatened earth for years) are kept at bay by a constant stream of negative emotions, and therefore those who feel those emotions most acutely are actually performing a serious public service. Obviously there are those people who believe that a giant corporate/government conspiracy to manufacture depression is a bad thing (what a shock), but while their motives are good, Negative Space reminds us that real life is no fairy tale, and sometimes negativity is not only to be tolerated but to be celebrated. By the end, this book makes the act of being depressed, and living in that headspace, itself an act of heroism, which is rather bold and unique for any story, told in comics or any other medium.

Other than the rich thematic elements, this book is worth having for Owen Gieni’s wonderful art. With a pedigree that includes the monstrous forests of Manifest Destiny, Gieni invests the Evorah with real personality and menace (impressive since they are essentially tentacled flowers), and even makes one into a rather sympathetic “counsellor” character. The character renderings are made even more impressive by the delicately shaded colours, pencilled and inked to comics perfection, wringing every ounce of pathos from Guy and every bit of ironic humour from his situation. His portrayal of the “real world” is equally grim, emphasizing the cluttered and cramped quarters of a modern writer, juxtaposed with the efficiency of a high-tech sci-fi antagonist.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Negative Space is the way it constantly re-framed the whole issue of depression. It doesn’t offer quick solutions (nor slow ones), doesn’t insist that medications will solve the problem (or even whether that would be a good thing) and encourages the reader to simply contemplate the concept with no expectations. It isn’t good or bad: it simply is. By the end of the book, Guy has been through the familiar stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression and is left with a simple, pure acceptance of psychological issues, and learns that sometimes our challenges can be our greatest teachers.

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Independent scholar Ian Dawe has been writing for Sequart since November 2013. Before that, he had a mixed background, initially in science (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), where he earned an MSc from Simon Fraser University and then an MA in Film from the University of Exeter in the UK. He spent a decade teaching at the college level, delivering courses in Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biological Anthropology and Film History. His academic work includes peer-reviewed papers on the work of Alan Moore, Harvey Pekar for Studies in Comics and a dissertation on Terry Gilliam for the University of Exeter. He has presented papers at several major academic conferences including Slayage 2014, Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore in 2010 (in the wizard's hometown of Northampton), Comics Rock and the International Conference of the Humanities in 2012, and at the Southwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 and 2015. He has contributed to several books, including a chapter about the TV show Archer in "James Bond and Popular Culture" and two chapters on Breaking Bad for "Breaking Bad and Masculinity", both now available from McFarland. At Sequart, he has authored a chapter for New Life and New Civiliations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, A Long Time Ago and two more upcoming books on Star Wars comics. He has also contributed to books on Alan Moore and 1970s Horror Comics. He is currently planning a full-length book on Better Call Saul. Ian currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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Also by Ian Dawe:

The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring the Blade Runner Universe


A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe


A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe


New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics


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