Writer: Max Bernis
Art: Jorge Coelho
Available Digitally?: Yes
Final Verdict: Buy, with reservations
My take: Using supernatural powers as a partial metaphor for the mania of bipolar disorder is a brilliant way to raise awareness for the disease, but the book falls short despite its attempt at lampooning the superhero genre.
Many people who experience a manic episode report feeling special, powerful, invincible. But what if those feelings weren’t delusions? What if, during a manic episode, an individual really became a superhero?
That’s the conceit behind Polarity, a short graphic novel about a 20-something artist with bipolar disorder. He’s fairly recently diagnosed and feeling disillusioned with his life, longing for the freedom and creativity that comes with mania, so he decides to flush his pills and go off them. Shortly after, he unintentionally discovers he has super strength and can read people’s minds.
I love the idea of this comic so much. First of all, bipolar disorder is not something we see handled in most media in a legitimate way (yes, I realize how ironic that sounds considering I’m reviewing a kind of superhero comic). There’s so much misconception about what bipolar disorder is, what it means, and what life is like for someone who has it that I’m always eager to see someone try to approach it from a “realistic” approach (again, I’m aware of the irony).
Timothy’s original ascent into mania is realistically catalogued–how he thinks, feels, behaves, and the metaphor–however heavy handed at times–of his mania making him a superhero of sorts (albeit not a very good one) is creative and interesting. I also really enjoyed the parodying of the superhero comic genre that goes on here. I’m not a huge fan of hardcore superhero comics because they are so ridiculous, and this one is no exception, though of course, it’s ridiculous partially because that’s the whole point. There’s also the endless jabs at the whole Brooklyn hipster esthetic, so social commentary is thrown in, too. The only problem is I felt like it was missing something, like it was a little underdeveloped. Like it should have been a five- or six-issue volume instead of four.
That’s what really kept me from loving it as much as I love the idea of it.
For example, things get increasingly crazy: turns out Tim’s paranoia isn’t a symptom of his mental illness but there really are people out to get him, and while I appreciated how that whole aspect of the story was playing off superhero genre tropes, I kept expecting that more that I never real got. Yes, Tim is ultimately able to come to terms with his mental illness and accept (maybe) why he takes his medication, which is great and all that, but it felt like a lot of silly that didn’t lead up to a whole lot.
I’m not saying I wanted the ending to be something like “it was all in his head after all,” but I just found myself disappointed, feeling like some of the metaphors were a little heavy handed.
The art is great, though. I’ll admit it didn’t impress me at first, but it really fit, especially Tim’s character design. He’s gaunt and has this long, sad Jesusy face that really fits his character.
Overall, this book is worth a read if you’re looking for something different in the superhero genre or if you want to get some insight into mania/bipolar disorder, but it falls short of being great.Share: