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Comic Book / The Arrival

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A wordless graphic novel by Shaun Tan about a nameless immigrant in a strange land. Drawn in beautiful hyper-realism, the book incorporates fantastical landscapes and an invented alphabet to convey the confusions of a new place and unfamiliar language.

No relation to either the 1996 film with Charlie Sheen in the lead role, or the better-known 2016 film Arrival, headlined by Amy Adams.

This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • An Immigrant's Tale: The story follows an immigrant struggling to learn the ways of his new land, with the twist that the place he's immigrating to (and the one he's immigrating from) isn't at all real.
  • Book Ends: Near the beginning of the novel, the confused protagonist asks a stranger for directions; at its end, his daughter gives directions to a newcomer.
  • Empathy Pet: A common feature for the citizens of the Immigrants' new city, as many of the people we see are accompanied by whimsical-looking fantasy creatures. The protagonist soon picks up one of his own.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Even the everyday food of the new city is strange; instead of regular foodstuffs that he expected, the nameless protagonist has to learn how to recognize and prepare a variety of bizarre, elaborately contorted fruits and vegetables.
  • Fish out of Water: A persistent motif is that the protagonist spends most of the story deeply confused by the strange habits, rules and material culture of the city he has moved to.
  • Funny Foreigner: The protagonist, at first and from the point of view of others.
  • No Name Given: None of the characters are named.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The odd mouse-tadpole thing that the Immigrant befriends over the course of the book.
  • Shout-Out: The book contains a number of visual references to famous images and landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Titanic newsboy
  • Show, Don't Tell: Heavy reliance on visuals and no written words. Even the texts that appear in this book are completely alien and made up by the artist. The imagery allows us to emphasize with the main character and his journey into a new world that will be his new home for his family.