Review by: JNewcomb

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 5.0
Users who pulled this comic:
Users who reviewed this comic:
By Jason Shiga

Size: 80 Pages pages
Price: 15.95

Remember those choose your own adventure novels? Remember how
exciting the concept was but then whenever you chose “wrong” you would
die? Kind of disappointing. Well this review covers a choose your own
adventure comic book. The first I’ve ever heard of. And you do
die in all but one story path but the interesting thing is that most
choices lead you deeper into the delightful moebius strip that is Jason
Shiga’s MEANWHILE. Shiga is a Berkeley graduate with a degree in pure
mathematics. He has created numerous puzzles and mazes for magazines and
has also written dozens of comic books.  Jason brings his unique
knowledge to the creation of one of the most innovative works in the
comics medium. Here’s how the book works.

Most comic books read from panel-to-panel, left-to-right, top-to-bottom.
MEANWHILE is a completely different machine. It reads in a non-linear
fashion. Your reading sequence is determined by “piping” which goes from
one panel to the next. So on one page you might go from a panel at the
bottom right to a panel in the middle of the page following the
direction of the piping. (for a video of how that works copy and paste this link into your browser: Now in certain cases a pipe will lead off the page and onto a tab jutting out from another page. In
that scenario you must open the book at the indicated tab and continue
following the direction of the piping on the new page. Throughout the
book you will be reading the story by jumping around any given page and
you’ll bounce back and forth from page to page. It’s an impressively
inventive story telling method and a brilliant demonstration of the
medium’s strength. Though it seemed a bit unwieldy at first, I
found myself enjoying the jaunty process especially that it is
integrated into the story (more on that later).

The story line itself begins in a charmingly simple manner. You play the
role of Jimmy, a small boy who wants to order ice cream. You get to
choose vanilla or chocolate. Each choice sets off a different adventure.
It might necessitate a few restarts but soon you will encounter
Professor K a scientist and inventor. The Professor has three inventions
that he will allow you to play with. A time machine, a memory transfer
helmet, and the killitron 2000. Careful though, the inventions can be
very dangerous. So dangerous that you have limited use of them unless
you have secret codes. These codes can be found on special code pages.
You could flip through the book until you find the right page and then
guess which one is correct. But the challenge is to choose the correct
combination of story paths which will lead you to the right codes and
ultimately to a perfectly happy ending to the story. Be warned that if
you make a mistake you could put the entire universe in peril! I’m sure
you can start to envision how this book becomes a tangled puzzle begging
to be unwound and solved. So far I’ve spent about 4 hours reading this
little book –  it has a total of 74 story pages – and I’ve unlocked what appears to be a
significant portion of the puzzle/story. But something tells me that
I’ve barely scratched the surface. So for $15.95 US it’s a great value!

Now, is the story any good? Yes! It is brilliant! Shiga uses the story
setting along with the unusual format to make some rather interesting
statements about the nature of reality. As you may know, in a quantum
universe nothing is ever this or that until it has been
observed. Quantum theory posits that when something is observed the
universe branches out so that the unobserved possibilities are actuality
in another universe (forgive me if my description of the theory is cumbersome. I
having only casual knowledge of quantum mechanics). In MEANWHILE Jimmy is
confronted with all these odd phenomena and Professor K guides
him. However, Shiga is doubly clever in that he demonstrates these
quantum principles by utilizing the strange format of the story. The reader
must observe/choose a path which splits the story off and reveals a new
story reality. Most impressive however is that all of this is done in a
cartoony style and a sense of humor. Reading this book was never
difficult or tedious. It always was fun!

It’s no wonder that the Marshall Mcluhan of comics, Scott McCloud
praises this book. Shiga, like McCloud has a deep understanding of the
comics medium and its potential. MEANWHILE is an abundantly
intelligent labor of love. From the paper stock to the typography to the
content, it is a product of extraordinary quality. Get
this book for you, for your kids, donate one to the library and school,
give one to your mother, the milkman, your banker. Be smart. BUY. THIS.

This review was originally written by me for

Story: 5 - Excellent
Art: 5 - Excellent


  1. Cool review. Thanks!

Leave a Comment