What can you recall about the main room of your home? Do you remember what year it was built? Do you know who or what it was built for? Or are you only aware that it was once some untamed bit of nature, long before someone decided to plot a structure onto it?
Every home has its millenias-long tale, although that’s not something we actively think about on a day-to-day basis.
Here reminds readers to think of where they are in the context of one small bit of space.
That space eventually becomes a sitting room in the 18th century. Although people do fill it, the room itself exists within the story as the only fully-formed character.
The area of Here begins as everything else does in 3,000,000,000 BCE: a gaseous, lifeless plain. By 500,000 BCE, the gas has turned into sea. Eventually, the water recedes for it to become land and dinosaurs, wildlife, and Native Americans roam twisting, turning, hunting, and cohabiting over the space, unaware of one another. Then the house is built—twice over, actually—and it morphs into a sitting room, the ultimate domestic space, and witnesses the unions, crises, love, and rage of all who enter it.
The sitting room works as a remark by its inhabitants, changing its décor with the progress of time, but never changing its shape. In 1942, it has leafy wallpaper, a mirror over the fireplace, and green carpet. In1957, it’s mostly dressed in pinks and violets with a small piece of art over the fireplace and a striped couch by the window. In 2007, the walls are painted yellow and an open futon works as the room’s centerpiece. Technology transforms from the marshy wetlands to radios and record players to large, flatscreen TVs and a collection of consoles.
The residents and the passersby of this home, separated by time, are unaware of each other. Their cultures, time periods, and even species differentiate them further. But life reconnects them all. They startle, they lose, they clash. Readers often never find out what precedes the moments McGuire captures, such as who rings the doorbell or why the home’s residents utter despair. But these moments evoke the camaraderie of life and nature and the struggles of existence.
The room’s aesthetic, in the end, means nothing. Its various appearances and objects allow its occupants to act in ways that differ, but ultimately mean the same few things that are brought on by human connection.
One can read Here in two ways. The more, perhaps, instinctual way is by regarding the house as universal as its themes. The room can be anything and therefore anywhere within space and time. It begins as a gaseous nothing in 3,000,000,000 BCE and nearly becomes that yet again in 2313 AD. It is as ordinary a piece of woodsland in 1573 as it is an ordinary home in 2015. As is any classic tale, its chronology is circular and everything that has come before comes again. This is also in regards to the home’s residents to who echo each other about such things as deep as the pondering of life and as trivial as the breaking of household items.
However, the story of Here does gain leverage in McGuire’s choice to root the home somewhere real. Even before the Native American people enter the scene, one can discern that the home is indubitably American based on its 1763-1766 construction. The sole recognizable figure in the book is Benjamin Franklin, who is defined not at all by his genius and influence, but by his quarrels with his son. Their relationship implies that the son is William Franklin, who sided with the Loyalists during the American Revolutionary War and was the last colonial governor of New Jersey (where, presumably, the sitting room exists).
Here not only spans two options to understand a story, but belongs to two different media as well. Alexander Lu analyzes the film adaptation here. One thing that is universally acknowledged amongst comics fans, however, is that no other medium explores time with the same ability. McGuire’s work is proof of that, with many of the pages of Here containing several different panels with just as many different years. If time is relative, there is no better way to simultaneously display this than with comics.
Your home does not remember, but it does contain memory. What has it heard you say?