Nick, a young illustrator, can't shake the feeling that there is some hidden realm of human interaction beyond his reach. But it isn't until he learns to speak from the heart that he begins to find authentic human connections and is let in — to the worlds of the people he meets.
In his breakout graphic novel, New Yorker cartoonist Will McPhail charts a millennial’s ungainly journey toward emotional connection. With generous wit and mostly black-and-white drawings, In follows Nick, an artist trapped in a cycle of hollow conversations and extra-milky lattes. ... That In is semiautobiographical lends both tenderness and a self-implicating edge to McPhail’s lampooning of the 'woke millennial hipster.' ... When Wren becomes unexpectedly entangled in Nick’s family life, he is confronted once again with an opportunity to be in—that is, to be vulnerable. And when small talk becomes real talk, the world suddenly seems all that much brighter.
Though snarkier and smuttier than E.M. Forster, New Yorker cartoonist McPhail’s graphic novel debut comes across as a book-length illustrated version of the Howard’s End epigraph: 'Only connect!' ... The narrative takes an unexpected turn when Nick suddenly decides to say something personal in a glorious scene that mixes the rapturous (a montage of fantastical lush color frames in this cool and restrained black-and-white book) with the comical (the man he’s connecting with is his plumber). But though Nick’s arc toward authenticity is well rendered, it’s too easily won, with a world willing to accommodate him the second he opens up and a convenient manic-pixie love interest. This smart if somewhat uneven character study bangs together insecure urban hipster humor with raw emotion.
Cartoonist McPhail’s debut graphic novel follows a youngish artist’s desperate search for authenticity in a culture where true selves hide behind performative, perfunctory interactions ... McPhail’s art is exceptional—realistic if impressionistic settings and anatomic figures with cartoonish accents like bug eyes and overemotive gestures. The visuals are scrumptious and the yearning for personal connection is deeply relatable, but the story loses focus with observational bits about pretentious coffee shops and corporate jargon, and the central romantic relationship has a bit too much of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl dynamic to fully resonate. But even when beats feel overly familiar, McPhail presents them with style and grace, deftly moving the story along with subtle, impactful visual cues .... gorgeous navel-gazing.