I’m a real sucker for brainy conceits in my reading material, and that’s precisely what drew me to this week’s Webcomics Wednesday selection, Sufficiently Remarkable, by Maki Naro. It opens on a beach, where a little girl asks her bespectacled father about sand. He informs her that it’s tiny particles ground even tinier by the waves, and a close-up panel reveals the myriad beautiful shapes of the microscopic grains (looking a lot like this). There’s wonder in that, but as that little girl, Riti, grows up, she discovers that it’s hard to retain that sense of wonder, both generally about existence and about the beach.
Now in her twenties, Riti Mirabilay is an aspiring artist in New York doing that most iconic of aspiring-artist-in-New-York things—reluctantly working in retail. When she’s not hocking markers at an art supply store, she’s dealing with her troublesome roommate, Meg, who’d rather smoke weed and spoil movies than run errands or get a job. Though her life in New York began full of sunny hope, she quickly finds herself weary of it all, particularly as she and Meg, once the closest of friends, grow apart. In a quest to get her roommate out of the house (and subsequently out of her hair), Riti secretly makes an online dating profile for Meg, hoping that at the very least, a boyfriend will get Meg to leave the sofa. But Meg, who’s just as peeved at Riti, believing she’s become uptight and judgmental, comes up with a similar plan, and high jinks ensue.
Of course, it would be far simpler for Riti and Meg to just talk about their gripes, but Naro’s got a larger game afoot—Sufficiently Remarkable is more than just a coming-of-age story about an odd couple of twentysomethings reaching toward adulthood. Interspersed with Riti’s frustrations with Meg, her dead-end job, and her burgeoning art career are dream sequences featuring her father, Nobel Prize–winning mathematician Rama Mirabilay. Rama waxes poetic on the nature of randomness and probability—particularly the way certain events may appear magical or fated when they are actually statistically probable random groupings—to the growing frustration of young Riti, who appears to be dressed in funereal black. Riti is none too pleased about these dreams, and even though Naro hasn’t gotten around to revealing why the conversations are so vexing, it’s pretty clear that something heavy and important happened between Riti and her father.
Naro’s artwork really shines in these moments, as the images shift from full-color, cartoonish figures to artfully smudged and speckled black-and-white. The gestures, too, convey plenty of character with very little text—Riti’s hunched posture repeated identically over many panels emphasizes the monotony of her day to day life, while Meg’s splayed, lounging body indicates her devil-may-care attitude.
The contrast between Riti’s contemplative dream scenes and Meg’s slouchy slackerdom is brilliant, infusing the arch hilarity of young adult angst with meaningful depth and a compelling mystery to solve. What’s the nature of Riti’s relationship to her father? Why are these dreams bubbling up now? How does all this talk of randomness relate to Riti and her friends? I’m eager to see how it all plays out, and since Naro updates twice a week (Mondays and Fridays), it thankfully might not take too long to uncover the secrets.