In a way from nearly the beginning of the book, it hammers in that “this will be a tragic story.” Every turn David makes is met with something to beat him down, sometimes figuratively and other times literally. Everything is from his point of view, so the story is skewed to how he views reality. When he feels cornered, surrounded with no way out, the panels close in around him. When he is in his own world, the art in dialogue boxes being cut off or hardly there shows that. If his vision of being fulfilled is not being met, everything is wrong, everything is a tragedy. As he begins to change, the tragic nature of the book turns into something beautiful. Realization, insight, coupled with a range of emotions come crashing down on you as a reader as it does for David.
Everyone leaves their marks on the world, through what they create, the memories they make with their family and friends (or friends who are family), or the very fact that people remember you. Changing the world is ambitious, but everyone lives in their own little world. Changing that little world is a lot easier from a small act of kindness of giving food or shelter to those in need, or changing how they view that little world. In the connection made to that person’s world links your world, and on the change goes so that while you cannot change everything, you can start the chain reaction through the people you have met. That can be your legacy, so that when you are gone, it may be more important that people talk less about the books you wrote, the paintings you painted, the pictures you drew, the sculptors you carved, and more about the people you touched and the fond memories they have of you.
As the story introduces new characters who all want to create something in different ways, you feel for the characters, not so much in wanting a happy ending, but wanting their desires to be realized. There are many funny moments in the book that help ground these characters in a setting that has the fantastical.
For anyone who has tried to create something, whether it be a painting, a sculptor, a picture, or a novel, this book will speak to you. It touches on how a person wants to be remembered for their name, their work, and their legacy. How can you be remembered when your name is so common as to be David Smith? How can your work last if it is made of materials that will not last? How can your legacy last if you compromise your principles to do unethical actions to get what you want? Is your legacy your work, or can it live on in not something you create, but someone you create?
David struggled with wanting to be remembered, wanting a legacy, and not content with leaving a family behind as that legacy. He wanted that remembrance to mean something; he wanted his art to mean something. In a meta sort of way, the art shown in the comic is the art by Scott McCloud. His art will last and has an impact on its readers. The last words are the comic are these: “You’re alive.” Remember that, and live.