‘Patience’ by Daniel Clowes – Realism and Time Travel


‘Patience’ by Daniel Clowes, a graphic novel   (2016) –   180 pages



The graphic novel ‘Patience’ by Daniel Clowes is a strange blend of realism and time travel.

In 2012, Patience and Jack Barlow are a young couple, and Patience is expecting a baby.  She doesn’t want to discuss her past which she says was “like a horrible reality show”.  Jack doesn’t want to hear about it either.  However one day Jack returns home to find Patience lying dead on the floor, murdered.  At first, the police try to pin the murder on Jack, but after ten months, Jack finds out that the police no longer suspect him and let him go.  By then, the trail to the real murderer is cold.

Time passes, and the year is 2029.  Jack is still hung up on Patience.  He finds out about a substance that allows one to travel back in time.  He decides to travel back to 2006 in order to find out about Patience’s past, determine who her murderer was, and perhaps stop the murder from ever happening.  He becomes involved with some of the people who were involved in Patience’s life at that time including drug dealers and men who abuse her.  He is zeroing in on who the murderer might be when he accidentally travels back even further in time to 1985 to the time of his childhood.  He has a difficult time to find a means of time travel in 1985, but finally he arrives back in 2012 again, the year of the murder.

As far as graphic novels go, I found ‘Patience’ to lean more toward the fantastical comic book side than the literary side with its time travel and its surreal artwork.  I must admit that the concept of time travel holds little or no interest for me.  Here the time travel was a contrivance which only complicated and convoluted the story.  Thus the idea of having Jack Barlow in the same scenes as both a fifty year old and a twenty five year old was confusing and not enlightening in any way.

Other reviewers were much impressed with ‘Patience’, calling it psychologically astute and darkly comic. I saw no humor or potential wisdom in it whatsoever.  I preferred Clowes’ more realistic earlier work, ‘Mr. Wonderful’.

ct-cth-prj-daniel-clowes-patience-2-jpg-20160317It would be way too unfair and facile to use a graphic novel’s own words against it, but these words from ‘Patience’ sum up my own reactions quite well:  “I’m so god-damned sick of all the science fiction mindfuck bullshit, all the guessing games and all the impossible, unsolvable riddles. I just want it all to fucking end.”


Grade:   C  


2 responses to this post.

  1. Since I rather like both SF and Daniel Clowes this is quite tempting. Nicely informative review even if you didn’t actually like the book itself.


    • Hi Max,
      Somehow even in the most advanced future, I doubt if time travel will be an option, but who knows? Who could have predicted a year ago that we would have millions of people running around looking for Pokemon Go characters?


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