It’s Not Worth It: Snotgirl, Volume One

Snotgirl Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care

Writer: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Illustrator: Leslie Hung
Colorist: Mickey Quinn

Published: February 28th 2017
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Satire, Mystery
Format: Digital
Length: 144 pages

I really loved the Scott Pilgrim books when I read them a few years ago – Goodreads tells me I gave the entire series five stars – but nothing else I’ve read by Bryan Lee O’Malley has lived up to that standard of quality.

His first book, Lost at Sea, was mostly just slight. His follow-up to Scott Pilgrim, Seconds, was better but still felt a bit lacking – I barely remember anything about either book. However, slight or not, they’re both light-years better than his newest series, the willfully unpleasant Snotgirl.

To be fair, the unpleasantness is right there in the title. Lottie Person, the main character, has an epic allergy problem that generates awful green snot at the most inopportune of times. I mean, how is she supposed to be a picture-perfect fashion blogger if she can’t even control her nasal passages?

This would maybe be a funny/gross premise if Lottie (or any of the other characters) had any kind of redeeming qualities, but they’re all horrible, vapid people being terrible and catty to each other.

This is coming from me, a huge fan of the Lovable Alpha Bitch. Cordelia Chase on Buffy/Angel and Taylor Townsend on The OC were my jam. I like stories that uncover the hidden depths of that particular archetype… but Snotgirl is not that. Lottie is shallow and horrible, and when bad things started happening to and around her, I was not in her corner.

The twist, see, is that Snotgirl also wants to be a murder-mystery-slash-thriller. Did Lottie really see someone die, or is she losing her mind? Again, this feels like a potentially rich vein of storytelling – fashion blogger + murder = DRAMA – but the execution was so muddled and obtuse that I didn’t care about what was actually happening to Lottie.

It’s a shame, really, because I do like Leslie Hung’s art. It feels a bit like manga designs from the eighties crossed with fashion sketches. I just can’t figure out what O’Malley sees in these characters. They have no redeeming qualities, and I’m not sure he even likes them. Does he just want to punish them for their vacuous ways?

DISLIKED IT

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The Fade Out: Dark Stars

The Fade OutThe Fade Out, Volume 1: Act One

Story: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser

Published: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Noir, Mystery, Crime
Format: Paperback
Length: 120 pages

The Fade Out is a tale of bad old Hollywood, when studios covered up all varieties of crime and young actresses faced near-constant sexual assault on the ladder to stardom. It definitely made me wonder how much has changed and how much has stayed the same since the 1940s, when this story takes place.

Charlie Parish is a screenwriter with a few dark secrets who wakes up one morning after a debauched party to discover a promising young actress, Valeria Sommers, strangled in her own home. Charlie decides to get himself the hell out of there – hiding any evidence of his presence before he leaves – but when the movie studio he works for spins the murder as a suicide, Charlie’s guilt and horror only increase.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips love a good noir. I haven’t read all of their work so far, but The Fade Out is one of their most grounded stories. It’s an unflinching look at the seamy underbelly of classic Hollywood, led by a conflicted non-hero who struggles to figure out what to do. The book also particularly focuses on the ways women were horribly mistreated during that time period, both in and outside the film industry.

Brubaker’s dialogue crackles, Sean Phillips’ character designs are bold and spare, and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors are the perfect accent that brings it all home. Charlie views the world through thick round glasses that dwarf his face. His writing partner, Gil, slumps his way through every scene, rumpled and dissolute. Valeria and Maya, her lookalike replacement on the picture, both have fresh, open faces and expressive mouths that make it easy to imagine them as long-lost Hollywood starlets.

Although The Fade Out starts with a murder mystery, it seems content to wander through old Hollywood, introducing a slowly expanding cast of characters without pushing Charlie into his ostensible role as citizen detective. It seems clear Brubaker is playing a long game and enjoying the scenery along the way.

My only criticism is that the third issue features so much female nudity that it verges on the exploitative. It’s clear that Brubaker is criticizing a system that puts women into situations that force them to use their bodies as currency, but the amount of naked flesh on display begins to undermine his point.

Even still, The Fade Out is an excellent slice of noir from creators working at the top of their game. Definitely worth checking out.

REALLY LIKED IT
REALLY LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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Just… Ugh: Irresistible by Gregory, Santacruz and Riesco

IrresistiblePublished: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Zenescope
Genre(s): Graphic Novel
Format: Paperback
Length: 148 pages

I’m honestly not sure what I was expecting when I requested a copy of Irresistible from Net Galley. Maybe I thought it would handle a clichéd male fantasy in an interesting way. After all, Y: The Last Man spun out a masterpiece with similar material. Unfortunately, I was sorely mistaken.

Irresistible tells the story of Allen Keeg, a whiny jerk who hasn’t had sex in a year and a half because his girlfriend broke up with him. After he whines about this for a few pages, he saves an old woman from muggers. When she asks how she can repay the favor – anything, really – he tells he her wishes all women found him desirable, because he’s a horny asshole at heart. Naturally she’s actually a secret witch, so her eyes glow when he walks away and she grants his wish.

The next day, a pretty barista surprises Allen in the bathroom and bangs his brains out. He seems to enjoy this, but his constant narration makes sure to remind us that his nightmare is only beginning – not because he feels guilty, mind you, but because it isn’t exactly what he wants. Every woman he meets – leggy, buxom model-types, of course – immediately jumps his bones… but the only woman he wants, his ex, won’t have him. Naturally he calls her and shows up at her house uninvited like a creepy stalker, but that doesn’t change her mind. Go figure.

The story only gets more unpleasant as it goes along. One of his conquests shows up at his apartment and starts cutting herself when he isn’t immediately happy to see her. Woman start fighting each other for his attention, and the sex starts happening against his will. Never mind that all the women he’s having sex with were brainwashed by a spell, of course. That’s consent, right? The climax of the story is entirely gruesome and only confirms that we’ve spent way too much time with a self-centered sexually obsessed sociopath.

This book misses the mark as a cautionary tale by a wide margin. The main character is a jerk from the start, the women are cartoonish sex-bots, and the resolution is both nasty and predictable. As for the art, it was competent but nothing special. It’s a rare book I hate so completely, but this one wins the prize.

HATED IT
HATED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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