Meanwhile is a graphic novel that lets you choose your own adventure, as it were.
To be clear: Choosing the chocolate ice cream doesn't necessarily bring about a worldwide apocalypse. That's just one of several story possibilities -- one of 3,856, if you believe the cover copy -- that present themselves to you as flip back and forth and back again through Meanwhile, Jason Shiga's new pick-your-path graphic novel of parallel universes, time travel, mad scientists and, yes, doomsday devices.
Readers of a certain age will recall the Choose Your Own Adventure series of kids' books, and the fearful joy you felt as you held your place with one finger and hesitantly explored the next branching path, only to come racing back to the page you'd marked when that choice led to death by Purple Worm, or whatever. One of the singular pleasures of reading a CYOA book was stealing glances at the roads you'd not (yet) taken, and trying to work out which choices might lead to those other outcomes.
In Meanwhile, that temptation is even greater, and the guilty thrill of seeing something you shouldn't have is even stronger. Shiga ushers you through his simple, colorful, crazily engaging cartoons by connecting the panels with tubes that branch and bend and often lead off the page onto tabs that send you still deeper into a tale steeped in a heady mixture of quantum theory and cuteness.
And as you navigate Shiga's labyrinth, you find yourself admiring not just the motherboard-like design of his pages and panels, but the way that design echoes the feel of the story he's telling. Every ending I've come across so far (be warned: Meanwhile is a time-sink) hints at other possibilities; the net effect is that of a much larger, multi-layered story that I haven't yet cracked.
You won't be able to tell exactly what's going on in these pages from Meanwhile, but you can see how it looks.
Shiga also throws in a treat for the casual, just-flipping-idly-through-the-pages kind of reader - a double-page spread that stands alone, that is neither linked to nor linked from anything else in the book.
I won't spoil what's on it, but rest assured that, like everything else about Meanwhile, it's a hoot.
After the jump: Speaking of choices: the Captain America casting. And the inevitable Muppet analogy.
The news that actor/eugenics experiment Chris Evans has been tapped for the role of Captain America in the upcoming feature film has left some fans of the character -- fans like, say, me -- nonplussed.
To get at the roots of this distinct lack of plus, it'll help you to understand what it is that sets Cap apart. In the Marvel Universe, the Steve Rogers Captain America (the role Evans is slated to play) isn't just another hero -- he's the paterfamilias of the spandex set, its elder statesman and moral center.
No one's questioning that Evans has the cheekbones and obliques to fill out Cap's patriotic longjohns, but can he do gravitas?
Now if, as is likely, the movie will trace Captain America's origin and thus restrict itself to a WWII-era tale of derring-do, the Evans choice makes sense A Nazi-smashin'-super-soldier with a lantern jaw? Yeah, he can derring-do that.
But you'll forgive us if the prospect of cocky, hot-headed Johnny Storm wielding Cap's mighty shield inspires in us some amount of cognitive dissonance. Because from where we sit, it's kind of like tapping Link Hogthrob to play Sam the Eagle.