Words and Pictures– a review of Kathryn & Stuart Immonen’s Never As Bad As You Think

Sometimes it is easy to forget the pure joy that can be found in simple words and pictures.

Never As Bad As You Think started off as a webcomic but that shouldn’t really affect how you look at this book.  We should just say that Never As Bad As You Think is a comic book by the wife and husband team of Kathryn and Stuart Immonen.  If this were a normal comic book review, I’d probably begin with with a description of a plot and tell you a bit about the story.

The only problem is that, with this book, there really isn’t a story.

Never As Bad As You Think is a collection of loosely strung together moments.  The Immonen’s began each page with a word and then built a comic page around that word.   They did this for around a year, putting the weekly strip up on the internet and now Boom Studios! has collected the whole thing into one nice book.  While each page and each strip builds off of the last one, there’s no real through-plot in this book.  The end of the book is almost in no way connected to the beginning or the middle because the Immonen’s really just followed their own weekly muse and followed it where it non-sequitorally led. sequitor

Kathryn Immonen’s script essentially provides a setup and a punchline on each page.  She plays around with words and situations and eventually gets swept up in them.  You can tell in the first few pages that she’s trying to build the foundation of a story, looking at a young couple who’s meeting for some coffee before almost inexplicably switching to the barista owner trying to have a conversation with a dog.  That goes on for a few pages before we see another couple talking in the coffee shop.  From there, Immonen abandons the coffee shop and begins just following a string of people and incidents which include talking cats, siestas and Mexican bands, live mermaid shows and an apparent homicide.  The book is about all of those scenes and yet it’s about nothing at all.  That may be the beauty of Never As Bad As You Think; it’s about nothing.  In a post-Sienfeldian way, Immonen courageously abandons the plot early on in the book to produce something about nothing.

Over on the art side of the book, Stuart Immonen reduced his style to a minimalistic but recognizable version of the style he employs on Ultimate Spider-Man and Nextwave.  With a few simple and well-placed lines, Immonen easily conveys his wife’s ambling story through facial expressions, body language and even color.  As his wife’s story is reduced to a string of moments, Immonen connects them all through his simple and expressive artwork.  By stripping his art down, Immonen gives the story an immediacy since his artwork is quick and easy to digest.  Even as Kathryn’s story jumps around every few pages, Stuart’s artwork keeps everything easily moving along, producing a quickness and intimacy through just a few simple lines.

Never As Bad As You Think
Written by: Kathryn Immonen
Drawn by: Stuart Immonen

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