Patience is stunning. Disturbing, convoluted, darkly comic and just plain dark, the book itself is a thing of beauty ... The book's self-awareness and sympathy make it more than just an exercise in the mixing of genres, but it's in this unabashed mixing that Clowes creates a story that is as transcendent as it is upsetting — and affirming.
In Patience, a love story like many of Clowes’s novels, the incursion of sci-fi is at first delightfully surprising and thereafter modulated so effortlessly that you see behind the irony of that self-consciously purple-prose blurb to the truth it encapsulates ... This is a deeply affecting book, and despite its gritty prose, colorful language and hardboiled trappings, a tender one, its sustained undertow of tenderness and melancholy giving it a surprising delicacy.
Patience, is not only among the best of his best, but also the work of his that is the most like nothing other—and nothing less—than a comic book ... coolly assured and utterly unpretentious ... Patience is a work of high comics so smart, so serious, and so finely wrought that I shouldn’t diminish it by saying it’s better than any novel without pictures I’ve read this year.
Unfortunately, the book doesn't stay with Patience. Jack's time traveling is far from foolproof, and his attempts yank him to different times and places. He suffers strange visions, and his body breaks down and reforms. This gives Clowes a chance to draw fantastic shapes, weird bolts of energy and other fun things, as well as rolling out his patented juicy color scheme. He also sends up the sci-fi and noir genres with ridiculous plot twists and goofy characters. But the time spent with Patience, in both her past and her changing present, feels much deeper.
Patience as a whole is a surprisingly calm work, probably Clowes’ most confident and clear-headed book to date ... Comics aren’t time machines, but they are chronological atlases, each panel a frozen instant, each page a map. Exploiting this quality of comics, Clowes dramatizes the painful work of putting together the pieces of a beloved’s history. And as he does so, his book rewards attention to its details as much as it does to the difficult, moving whole. In Patience, each assured and elegant panel reminds us that every moment matters.
As for Patience herself, the reasons behind her self-doubt and emotional confusion are gradually revealed with clarity and compassion. Clowes can be harsh and sometimes downright cruel to his characters, but he treats her with a tenderness that may be unprecedented in his comics work ... a big, bold work taken to completion in one glorious shot. It finds Clowes at the height of his powers, employing all the mind-bending talent he can muster.
Tender and heartfelt, exciting and bizarre, Patience is interested above all in the stories we tell ourselves about love. Loyalty can be toxic, for all that we prize it. Patience isn’t always a virtue; sometimes, it’s just a time bomb in disguise.
The 'cosmic timewarp deathtrip' aspect allows Clowes to move in a more experimental, surreal direction with certain elements of his plot and artwork, but it’s all grounded in a relatable human emotion: love. That foundation makes for a surprisingly upbeat read given how dark the story gets, and the suffering of Clowes’ characters is ultimately balanced by the elation of everlasting love.