I don’t particularly need to know what happened to the World of Tomorrow, but I’d be curious to know why it ended up so boring. There’s nothing in this book that shouldn’t be riveting—it’s a nostalgic look at the way we (as a culture) have viewed the future over the past 70 years or so, starting with the New York World’s Fair and proceeding up to the present. It’s chock full of really interesting commentary on the various eras and epochs as told through the eyes of a boy and his relationship with his father (as well as the the styles of the various comic books of each age), but unfortuantely the commentary just sits there, failing to connect the reader with either the material or the boy and his father.
To further confuse things, the boy ages extremely slowly, progressing from nine or ten around the start of the book, to his late teens by the end. I’d postulate that this is a metaphorical aging, representing the changes that our society has weathered in order to reach the more mature, realistic vision we have now, but if that’s the case, we are once again left behind by a concept that leaves the average reader behind. My wife, casually picking up the book and interested in the material, couldn’t figure out the metaphor in the aging and put it down, mildly frustrated. That’s not the right reaction when you’re trying to evoke nostalgia and wonder.
I’d like to like Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow—I’d certainly like to read the author’s conclusions and points of view in essay-form—but as a graphic novel, the pieces don’t quite mesh together and in the end one is left with the feeling that sometimes the future is better off without us making a big production of searching for it.