Mental illness as a symptom or cause of a repressed superpower has been used before in comics. Mark Millar’s “Wanted” is the one I always think of as the hero suffered from anxiety, as I do, but unbeknownst to him it is because of the heightened senses and reflexes he inherited from his father. No one’s shown up at my door yet to tell me that’s true of me yet, but I’m still hoping. In Polarity the relationship between the two is a bit more complicated however.
Tim is an artist living in Brooklyn. He suffers daily from the plague of hipsters that surround him. He also suffers from Bipolar Disorder. We discover this immediately when the story opens with him walking out of his building, wearing only a t-shirt, obviously disoriented and walks into the path of an oncoming car.
Tim gets help and medication and attempts to reclaim his life. He feels like he’s always on the outside looking in and the disaffected nature of his peers doesn’t help this feeling go away. He takes his medication and tries to navigate his way through life. Until the day he decides to stop taking it for his art. He has a breakdown and discovers that his medication doesn’t just keep his illness at bay, it also keeps his superpowers suppressed. How this came to be is a major turning point in the story.
Polarity is intense but good. It’s a well paced graphic novel, the issues feel like chapters and flow smoothly. The biggest problem I had? Tim himself. I didn’t find him all that sympathetic or likable. I didn’t dislike him. I just didn’t feel invested in him. Still the story was interesting enough to keep me interested.
The writing is good. Say Anything front-man, Max Bemis shows, much like Gerard Way, there is a place for lead singer/writers in the comic world. The art by Jorge Coelho was excellent. Since much of the book follows Tim in an altered state the visual storytelling could have been challenging, but I found it added richness to the writing.
I give Polarity a 3 out of 5. The issues I have with it may well be subjective as it is well done book. If it’s your type of story you may enjoy it far more than I did.
Polarity Vol. 1
Writer: Bemis, Max
Artist: Coelho, Jorge
Cover Artist: Irving, Frazer
Format: TRADE PAPERBACK
On Sale December 11, 2013
Publisher BOOM! Studios
Diamond Id: OCT131011