I read a new graphic novel recently that was very well-done, and it's received some kudos in various circles. (Though I've also heard not nearly as many kudos as it should; it's been largely ignored by "mainstream" comics outlets.) It wasn't my favorite graphic novel of 2012 by far, but it wasn't anywhere near the bottom either. Critically, I can say it was very well done. But I didn't really enjoy it.
Here's the weird thing, though. The art? A little different, but I was on board with it. The story? Pirates, hell yes, I'm on board! Characters? Not all relatable for me, but definitely several that were interesting. My problem with it was largely the ending. It felt unfinished. It wasn't, but I was left with an openness that didn't sit well with me.
It was a book that I had picked up at Quimby's. And there was a lot of stuff there that I could see at a glance would be things I wouldn't care for. So when I got to the end of this book, I thought of all the other things there that may have been well-done, but weren't my thing. And many of the other books I've read over the years that seemed significant or worthwhile... but I didn't like because they had a strange ending or a message that I didn't understand.
I didn't care for Chris Ware's Building Stories despite being able to recognize the craftsmanship in it. But I was okay with that because I "got" what Ware was doing, and I could readily pinpoint that the reason I didn't like it was because of the depressing tone the stories all took. He wasn't trying to paint a happy picture here, and that's okay. It's just not my thing. I don't care for Friedrich Nietzsche either for similar reasons.
But the books where I just don't understand what the creator is trying to do or say? I have trouble with those. I don't know that I need an ending that's necessarily wrapped up in a tidy bow -- I like Stanley Kubrik's 2001 for example -- and I don't need to be spoon-fed the creator's message, but I need something.
If I get a book that makes no sense front to back, I can write that off as poorly executed. But this one made sense and I followed along perefectly fine -- even the visually challenging pages that were meant to convey the madness of a particular character -- until the last page. So I have to ask myself, "Did I miss something?"
Naturally, I'll go back and re-read the last portion to see if I did indeed miss something. But if I didn't miss anything and still don't get it, I find that I start questioning my own comprehension abilities. I don't generally think of myself as a dullard, but an allegedly good book that I'm not understanding will get me to that line of thinking. Obviously, that's not an idea that sits well with me.
Or maybe I've gotten so used to stories making things so easy that an idiot child could understand that I've turned my brain off to processing something that's a bit more complex. Maybe there IS a reasonable ending there and subsconsciously, I'm just not willing to think about it. That idea doesn't sit well with me either.
Furthermore, is it fair of me to dislike the entire book because I didn't understand the last page? I mean, I had a few other issues with the storytelling early on, but fairly minor ones. Does an uncomprehended ending -- seemingly due to a problem on my side -- warrant going from an okay opinion to a disagreeable one?
You'll notice, of course, that I haven't actually named the book I've been talking about. That's largely because I don't have answers to any of these questions. I didn't like it, but is that opinion really justifiable? Is it reasonable of me to try to convince you not to read this because I didn't like the last page? Even if it is, do I want to? I try not to post negative reviews because I don't want to be a guy telling you what NOT to buy: I want to stay positive and tell what you I think you might enjoy.
Theoretically, there are some books in the mail that I think I will enjoy. I believe I'll just save my reviews until I get a chance to read those.