Who knows anymore?

*Oh, waking life. You and your monkeyshines. I can't tell what is what these days. Like this. It's a graphic adventure game based on some very familiar duck characters, though the visual style - in action, it's really quite attractive, I have to admit. I want to say it's downright innovative, though I'm probably wrong - I don't know all that much about the homebrew gaming universe. And I liked the ripped music, maybe because I have fond memories of the Dizzy games. I think you should download it and enjoy.

Supermarket #1 (of 4)

This is a new miniseries from IDW, written by Brian Wood, with art by Kristian - just one word in the credits, so that’s how I’ll say it here. It really is a lovely-looking package, which is great; despite having pioneered the now-standard price point of $3.99 for a full-color pamphlet-format comic, IDW is obviously not content to merely rest on its laurels, preferring instead to attempt a package so lovely, the reader’s eyes will travel away from that tag, lost in the bright reds and greens and blues and yellows of the cover. And the rest of the presentation is just as impressive, even outside of directly story-related material - I believe IDW has standardized content each month to fill some space in the backs of their books, sometimes a communal company-wide letters page, or short fiction. This time it’s a look at IDW’s upcoming adaptation of the Clive Barker book The Great and Secret Show, complete with production art by Gabriel Rodriguez and an interview with script adaptor Chris Ryall; the back cover of the book is also dedicated to an advertisement for that project, offering cohesion of hype. Very canny.

Fortunately, the story itself also looks great. I’ve seen Kristian’s work before in IDW’s Doomed, the b&w horror magazine, but it’s Kristian’s use of color that really catches my eye now, responsive hues which seem to track the trajectory of the single day that this issue represents - soaking neon and blackness in a wee-hours prologue, crisp directness in the early day complimenting (again) the primary greens and reds and blues and yellows, pink skies and golden hour glaze marking the dusk, and once more the saturated artificiality of the city-lit nighttime. I particularly enjoyed the dirtiness of streets and buildings, highways a mess of ink and urban crossroads slick like they’re coated in oil. It obviously helps that Kristian is a very adept visual storyteller; panels tighten their spaces when suspense is needed, and borders overlap (the order of the page layouts duly disrupted) mainly when excitement is present among the characters, jangled nerves via white space. Character designs are slightly reminiscent to me of Ashley Wood’s, with the sharp edges and simplified facial features - lots of thin eyes. It’s really an impressive book visually, and I think a lot of people will come to keep their eye on this artist as a result.

Storywise, not as much of interest is going on. The plot concerns a young woman named Pella, somewhat rebellious child of a decidedly wealthy family, who finds her privileged existence destroyed when her parents are killed, apparently by the Yakuza, and her money is taken away as she gets lost in the titular place, a nickname for a nearby urban sprawl, where nearly anything can be purchased. The book’s gaze is firmly planted on economics, and presumably future issues will explore the workings of commerce’s grip on this particular corner of the world. But for this issue, all of the entertainment for me came from the lead character, a girl so thick into the rhetoric of capitalism’s violence, that she literally starts off her day with a lecture to her parents on the abuses of coffee cultivation after being offered a cup. The character’s situation is then neatly summarized when her tirade is cut off by her own reaction to the stuff: “What is this, Sumatran? S’good.”

Pella, you see, narrates the book in full-on privileged guilt mode, detailing for us all the exploits of the hypocrites that inhabit her protected community, the subtle racism of the local job situation, the rebellion she participates in through spending much of her money on music downloads and slightly less abuse-powered sneakers; she rips off slithery upper-class customers at the (literal) supermarket she works at via charity fraud, but apparently her killer impulses don’t extend to any actual charity work. She’s utterly aware and sick of the environment she lives in, but it’s pertinent that she’s never shown doing anything to divorce her from that situation - in the end, just like she enjoys her coffee, she still goes back to her fine, gated home, her hellion’s attitude apparently confined to the social experiments she conducts at the job she doesn’t need, since ultimately she’s always going to be upper class. “Good thing I’m on Xanax. I’d never survive this commute otherwise.” One of the better bit of business in this issue is that her narration continues going at much the same emotional tenor, even after finding her parents dead, though at least she drops the lecturing, just as she finally finds herself blocked off from her money for real.

It’s always tricky working with a main character that’s really sort of obnoxious; ultimately, some readers are just going to react badly, no matter the skill of the presentation. I thought it was fun, which is fortunate, since the ‘thriller’ elements of this issue struck me as dull, apart from the kick of the visual presentation; we have the sudden discovery of the cash flow being halted, a few confrontations with villains blocking the route of escape, the flight into the city - looks great, but doesn’t really capture my attention, so standard is the set-up. It can work as a skeleton upon which to hang observations and character work, which I presume is the intent here, but there’s no doubt that some readers are going to be turned away, especially if they don’t care for the protagonist, so central is her presence to the writing appeal of this book. At least, though, they’ll have those great visuals to make it all go down smooth - certainly the mix is enough to keep me around for additional issues, to see how things wind up.