Second Thoughts, by Niklas Asker, 2009, Top Shelf, 80 pages, $9.95
Swedish artist Niklas Asker's first graphic novel is a quiet book about floundering relationships that harbors an intriguing message about the impact of people's choices upon their lives.
This slim book features a young writer named Jess and a young photographer named John, both living in London and both unhappy with their girlfriends.
I won't get into it more than that because I don't want to spoil anything, but I should point out that the book is certainly more than just another angsty, youthful twenty-somethings trying to figure out their lives kind of thing (although it might appear that way at first). The book's seemingly simple plot actually contains a slyly-executed twist that adds an extra layer of meaning to the story.
Asker's black-and-white art compliments his story well. He does a couple of interesting things messing around with perspective, but for the most part the art is straightforward and unassuming, allowing the characters and the story to be the focus.
I'd also like to point out that I love the cover. It's a fantastic design, and in real life the colors are slightly warmer than on the computer, so the piece conveys a really interesting mood. It's quite eye-catching. Asker definitely has artistic chops -- his illustration work displayed on his website includes some really cool stuff:
I wouldn't mind seeing him really let loose on his next book -- he has the imagination and talent to really pull off something fantastic. But if you are in the mood for a story with understated art and an interesting idea executed well, check this one out.
There is a lot of material out there if you want to learn more about this book. Here are the first fourteen pages, and you can follow the development of the book at the Second Thoughts blog. You also might be interested in Asker's blog, which provides an interesting window into the world of a working comic book creator in Sweden. And finally, here's an article on publisher Top Shelf's relationship with the Swedish comics scene.
You can buy this book from Top Shelf here or from Amazon here: Second Thoughts
Related: My reviews of other Top Shelf comic books: