The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln is a semi-fictional story of a younger Abraham Lincoln as he struggles with depression and the struggles of his adult life with a law firm, his friendships, and his growing romance with Mary Todd against her family’s disapproval. The novel ends on a happy note with he and Mary marrying and him getting back on his feet.
The art style is very distracting. The character lines aren’t smooth, which gives it a unique style but causes a problem with a character changing slightly between panels. Combine that with many of the characters looking identical, following the dialogue closely is a necessity. This was before Lincoln grew his iconic beard, so he had no distinctive features.Sometimes I would get lost in who was speaking until someone mentioned another character’s name. What’s worse is that many of the women share the same face as the men, leading to several somewhat hilarious misunderstandings on my part. The backgrounds are simple, so paying attention to a character’s location relative to the setting doesn’t help. One thing the style does right is creating the feeling of isolation and darkness of depression. The sketchy, cross hatching of the shading gives a dark, rough texture that encloses the characters and gives a looming feeling. Sometimes parts of a character would be swallowed by darkness.
From a narrative standpoint, it’s very well done. Most of the story is told through visuals and dialogue between characters, with one or two instances of narration giving the year and the location. However, there is an instance about two-thirds of the way through the book where a paragraph describes many things that we had just seen only pages before. Thisis a very poor instance of telling rather than showing. The author describes how depression is starting to hit Lincoln hard, but a more powerful tool would have been to visually show his plunge into a pit of despair. That narration
bubble is very out of place among a much more visual story.
Another thing that bothered me was there were no page numberings. Every time I closed the book I had to remember the approximate location or book mark it, meaning it was an adventure trying to find where I left off. If the novel were to be broken into chapters, finding a specific page would be much easier. However, I’m left counting the pages myself to try to remember where I left off if I don’t have anything to mark the page with.
The book can be read in a single sitting and the story would have been easy enough to follow if the author chose a different art style. However, I personally found it difficult to get through. Unless a character had a unique physical trait, it was almost impossible to tell them apart. Its not a good sign when I cant tell the difference between the protagonist and a background character. It is my personal opinion that when you flip to a random page in a comic, you should be able to identify the main characters immediately. Clark Kent/Superman each have specific looks, Rorschach has a distinctive look, Wolverine has a distinctive look. If you flip to any page in their respective comics, you’d be able to find each character immediately. I think that was the biggest flaw of the novel. I love the concept. Most people know very little of Lincoln’s early years except that he was born in a log cabin. However, I feel like the character style really distracted from story. Over all, I give it a C+. Worth an attempt, I don’t regret it, but I’m not going to recommend it except to Lincoln enthusiast.