“No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,

No comfortable feel in any member—

… November!”

“November” by Thomas Hood

Writer Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) and artist Elsa Charretier join forces with colorist Matt Hollingsworth and letterer Kurt Ankeny, with book design by Rian Hughes, to narrate the lives of three women immersed in crime in the new three-part graphic novella, November. Attempting to explore the twisted natures of darkness and crime as they rip apart people’s lives, November Volume I introduces us to these women and the three separate but interwoven tragedies waiting for them in the shadows.

Once Upon A November

November begins with three women on the verge of being dragged into the chaos of crime. One knows what she might be getting into, at least a little, while the others stumble into trouble, in one case quite literally.

The Girl On The Rooftop

Our first woman, Dee, is approached by a mysterious figure, known only as “Mister Mann.” For $500 a day, Mann wants Dee to pick up a newspaper, solve his puzzle using math, and then broadcast the answers in a little room on a rooftop from an illegal radio. Every day another secret message, shady broadcast, and new lock for the door. Until one day there is no message waiting for her, and Dee realizes things are about to get dangerous.

“…it’s the end of the goddamn world.”

Mister Mann

The Gun In The Puddle

On the day the world ends, our second woman is minding her own business, taking groceries to a friend, when she discovers a discarded gun lying in a puddle. She immediately phones the police, asking what she should do with it, and how long she’ll have to wait out in the November cold for the cops to show up. Unfortunately for this woman, she doesn’t wait very long.

The Nature Of The Emergency

The final woman, and the one who, at least for now, seems to be in the least amount of danger, spends her life looking at the aftermath of crime. As a police non-emergency line operator, Kowalski deals with danger on a constant basis, though never directly in the line of fire—until now. When a woman calls, saying she found a gun on the corner of L and 12th, then goes quiet, Kowalski feels that something about the situation isn’t right.

Chain-link Fences

So how are all these women connected? For now, only the last two women seem directly linked, but with the set up from this volume, I’m sure we’ll start seeing the complex web a little come clearly in the follow-up. While much has yet to be explained, this is the first issue, and it’s clear there’s plenty to unravel moving forward. Clearly, the writers of November are just trying to get us a taste before giving us a look at the big picture.

November Volume I, Page 5, Image Comics (2019).
Credit: Image Comics, 2019.

Normally, having this many questions would bother me, but with the amount of emphasis that’s been placed on connections in this first issue, I’m pretty confident that the payoff will be worth my current confusion. This first volume focuses on the idea of

“One thing, connected to another thing, connected to another.”

So, we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled on the hinted relationship from this volume to see how they might link to volume two.

November Bleeds

Connection once again plays a major role when we take a look at the art style. On the surface, we are made to constantly think about those links in a chain, as chain-link fences separate each section from the one before it. Beyond the obvious, the coloring also creates an interesting visual motif that is carried on throughout.

Cover Image. November Volume I, Image Comics (2019).
Credit: Image Comics, 2019.

The colors are fairly subtle — consisting primarily of muted blues, grays, yellows, and browns. When disaster seemingly strikes for all three women, it is when we get a startling and vibrant red. A red we only see elsewhere when it’s blood. This works visually to both disarm the reader—it’s practically shouting “DANGER!” at us — and to assist in mentally connecting these three seemingly-separate stories. It’s beautifully well done.

Going Off Script

While much of the writing and art come together to create connections throughout November Volume I, the lettering actually does the opposite. Each of our main characters has different penmanship, setting them apart from one another. This became obvious to me when I reached Kowalski’s section—since her lettering is cursive—but when looking back I noticed differences, though subtle, between Dee and our second woman’s letters as well.

November Volume I, Page 7, Image Comics (2019).
Look at the personality in that text! Both characters have the same lettering, but this lettering is specific to the sections focused on this woman, Dee. Credit: Image Comics, 2019.

Now, I’m not entirely sure what to make of these differences, but it’s certainly interesting, and undoubtedly intentional. I’m definitely going to be paying close attention to the lettering in volumes two and three to see what we might learn through each character’s stylized scripts.

A Harsh November

While much of what November Volume I has given us so far is set up, it has me extremely excited for what’s to come. With crime, terror, and violence sure to come, it’s not looking good for our three unlucky women, but the powerful emotions this graphic novella creates are well worth the sorrow. There are so many questions I need the answers to, and I have no doubt that with this amazing creative team it’s all going to pay off in the end. In the meantime, it looks like I’ll just have to count down the days until March 2020, and November Volume II.

November Volume I by Matt Fraction, Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth, & Kurt Ankeny
Plenty of Intrigue
Contrasting Coloration
Lettering Mysteries
Lesbian Characters
Can't Wait For Next Volume
So Far Unconnected Plot Threads
Unnamed Second Woman
Cursive Can Be Difficult To Read
Need More Now!