Working in an office building – or even visiting one! – will never be the same again after reading Theo Ellsworth's richly imaginative graphic novel interpretation of Jeff VanderMeer's tale (that was originally published as the lead story in his 2004 collection of the same name). Secret Life, as one might expect, is all about revealing a different sort of life lurking just below the surface of quotidian normalcy. It only takes an instant to realize that this is straight up Theo Ellsworth's alley! It's close to a perfect match, and Theo really goes to town. It is a bit different seeing him work on a more formally straightforward narrative, and there are moments during the reading of Secret Life where you might experience hints of Rick Geary, Mark Alan Stamaty, Ben Katchor or even Michael Kupperman – yet there's never the slightest doubt that no one else but Theo Ellsworth could be the creator this work. It's a lot of fun – but it's also more than that.
The office building, with its focus on a nameless, faceless corporation the task and point of which is not only unknown but also perhaps nothing at all besides floating lives on a current of cash flow along preset channels going nowhere, is also clearly intended as a synecdoche for 21st century American civilization. And then there are the seemingly timeless natural rhythms that undergird and finally interpenetrate it all, yet still remaining just out of intellectual reach – beyond mortal ken. Moving in the spaces between these two zones – which can (but don't have to) be taken to symbolize the conscious and unconscious – are a panoply of characters with whom readers can identify to varying degrees, and so find their own place and sort out their own role in all of this... a process which to which Theo Ellsworth's singular art provides a contribution of inestimable value.
Take a moment to check out this high resolution preview courtesy D & Q.