Everyone knows someone who’s insanely popular: the centrepiece of a social group around whom all things seem to orbit. The Wrong Place is about a man like that. Robbie, largely absent from the first half of the book, is a social whirlwind, deeply in demand. Men seek his company and women want to sleep with him.
His friend Gary organises a party, inviting many mutual acquaintances. Though when Robbie fails to arrive, and the guests get restless and distracted, you have to wonder how much they actually like Gary. And is Gary really ringing Robbie to find out where he is, or is something altogether more sad and underhand going on?
A couple of short vignettes follow, though they serve to transition the party to the following section. This is set in a nightclub called Disco Harem, which Robbie has transformed from a lowly dive into the hippest hangout in town, just by frequenting it.
Here we see Robbie work his magic, first with a girl, then with Gary. Robbie is a text-book charmer, with an ability to give people just enough to keep them adoring him. He gives them his trust, returns their love, and is only sometimes a tiny bit cruel. Though even when he’s a bit mean, it’s almost as if he’s bringing people down only so he can lift their spirits even higher with a kindness to follow.
Perhaps the best thing about the book is the beautiful watercolour artwork. Brecht Evens paints a wash of characters with a translucent, temporary feel, perhaps indicative of how people and friendships change over time. As figures pass by one another you can sometimes see through them, like ghosts. The colours are vivid but detail is often blended in to light and shadow, giving an impressionistic feel. It’s a style that doesn’t crop up in graphic novels that often, perhaps because it’s difficult to get right. But here Evens creates fluidity and life from his paintings.
This makes for an interesting book, and quite a refreshing change of tempo and style from most graphic novels we’ve seen of late. While the subject matter sounds humdrum and every-day, it turns out to be a compelling read. The beautiful, stylistic artwork helps, but the story itself is surprisingly compelling too, with its strange mix of friendship, expectation and a gentle charismatic magic in the social wizardry that Robbie conjures up.