In The River at Night, Kevin Huizenga delves deep into consciousness. What begins as a simple, distracted conversation between husband and wife, Glenn and Wendy Ganges—him reading a library book and her working on her computer—becomes an exploration of being and the passage of time. As they head to bed, Wendy exhausted by a fussy editor and Glenn energized by his reading and no small amount of caffeine, the story begins to fracture.
The River at Night flashes back, first to satirize the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and then to examine the camaraderie of playing first-person shooter video games with work colleagues. Huizenga shifts focus to suggest ways to fall asleep as Glenn ponders what the passage of time feels like to geologists or productivity gurus. The story explores the simple pleasures of a marriage, like lying awake in bed next to a slumbering lover, along with the less cherished moments of disappointment or inadvertent betrayal of trust. Huizenga uses the cartoon medium like a symphony, establishing rhythms and introducing themes that he returns to, adding and subtracting events and thoughts, stretching and compressing time. A walk to the library becomes a meditation on how we understand time, as Huizenga shows the breadth of the comics medium in surprising ways. The River at Night is a modern formalist masterpiece as empathetic, inventive, and funny as anything ever written.