In this first instalment of Luis Roldán Torquemada and Mariano Eliceche’s graphic novel, we’re introduced to a nightmarish version of the world where a mysterious group of aliens (quaintly known as ‘the long folk’) control humanity’s memories. They’re aided and abetted by a squad of human hitmen (‘the handlers’), who unflinchingly kill anyone who shows the slightest sign of having the wrong memories (known to the handlers as ‘infringers’). It’s like George Orwell’s 1984 crossed with a Quentin Tarantino movie.
The main thrust of the plot starts fairly innocuously. It revolves around Marc, a likeable but flawed character who drifts around taking money from people in poker games. While getting kidnapped for winning a high-stakes poker game against the wrong person, he inadvertently discovers that he can remember a huge hit by a band that no-one else seems to have heard of. This puts him into the sights of the handlers, who spend their days hunting down infringers, and either killing or recruiting them, while their nights are spent having their own memories erased. While Marc starts the story looking like a bit of a tosser, revelations of what’s going on to people with the wrong memories is enough to trigger a change in his demeanour, transforming him into a reluctant but more convincing hero.
Meanwhile, in the background, there’s a few other characters kicking around. Travis is aware of the problem with memories and is being chased by the handlers, trying to spread memories as he goes but generally just getting people around him killed. His cocaine habit probably isn’t really helping. Another is a Christine, oblivious to the problems but who somehow finds herself on the wrong side of the thin veneer separating perceived reality from what’s actually happening. Then there’s the librarians, custodians of the enormous vault where all the forgotten memories are kept. There’s a certain inevitability in all these people meeting over the course of the story, but this first volume, collecting the first five issues of an ongoing comic series, keeps them largely separate.
Mariano Eliceche’s art is a great addition to the sophisticated plot. Bright, colourful and somehow slightly off-kilter, the impression is given of a world that’s essentially like ours but different. His characters look slightly exaggerated and caricatured — not enough to be off-putting or to detract from the action, but enough to give Things You Shouldn’t Remember an other-worldly look. There are several occasions in the book where key characters don’t speak out loud but the art speaks volumes about the awkwardness or horror of their situations.
There are plenty of mysteries still to uncover, with very little resolved by the end of the book (though you can apparently expect this story arc to be resolved by the end of the second volume). What it lacks in resolutions, though, it more than makes up for in compelling action and slowly-revealing mystery, making it an engaging start to what we hope will become an equally brilliant series.