Graphic Novel Review Bites: Kabuki, Lady Killer, The Beauty
I’ve been a fan of David Mack since a very intuitive comic book pusher (I say this with love, but frankly, this guy had me figured out and knew exactly what he could get me to buy) suggested I read Circle of Blood, the story of a government assassin in a future noir-Japan, escaping the bonds and corruption of her masters. Kabuki’s story is one of constant transformation and self exploration that is now being collected into four gorgeous hardcover volumes by Dark Horse comics. As much as I love the stories themselves, these volumes are a literal treasure trove that allows the reader into Mack’s mind. I’ve always been curious about his artistic process, so poring over the letters, notes, sketches, and other additional tidbits is such an amazing opportunity–as was the opportunity to chat with Mack himself to pick his brain.
Volume 3 of this series collects The Alchemy. Kabuki has escaped the asylum with the help of a not-so-imaginary friend, Akemi. As she seeks to reinvent herself, following the path laid out by Akemi, Kabuki discovers that she is not alone. Akemi has helped many people on their journeys of self-discovery and the result is a network that connects across the world. Akemi seems to have some sort of revolution in mind, and Kabuki is meant to play a major part in it.
The intrigue of Akemi’s plans hover over the story, but the focus remains on Kabuki’s exploration of self. When Mack appears within the pages of his own book, it becomes evident that Kabuki’s story of becoming is also the very personal story of Mack himself.
I love comic artists that take the medium far outside the panel. David Mack is at the top of my list. Every single page in this library is a work of art. Sadly, I do not have room on my walls for every single page…
Dark Horse comics describes Lady Killer as “Betty Draper meets Hannibal!” but that description is a bit off. The book definitely has that Mad Men appeal of early ’60s domestic bliss, but Josie Schuller is a bit more into the blood spatter of a serial killer like Dexter, than she is the neat and ordered psychosis of Hannibal. In fact, she isn’t a serial killer at all. She’s a hired assassin who’s very good at getting the job done (albeit it in a very messy and impractical manner, partially because she prefers a more hands on approach), all while maintaining a neat and tidy household and happy children for her husband to come home to at the end of the day. All in a days work for a mother.
While the idea of a housewife who hides her career as an hitperson from everyone but her employer makes perfect sense, sometimes the comic takes liberties with the execution, demanding that you fill in the blanks that take her from brutally messy kills to home in time to cook dinner. While a more detail-oriented person might get hung up on the transitions, I can appreciate the juxtaposition of dichotomy of Josie’s life. Every time I might have stopped to demand how she got herself out of a particular mess, the next panel pulled my attention away from such pesky ruminations. The fast pace, charming art and sharp dialogue make up for the details that are skipped over in order to keep the plot moving.
The Beauty is the STD that everyone wants–until they don’t, because a beautiful face and youthful body are all fun and games until someone loses their head. As in, their head explodes. This is what is happening to people who have been infected with The Beauty virus. Anti-beauty terrorists are trying to get the truth out there, but the corrupt government official and the pharmaceutical company that stand to make millions from treatments rather than the cure aren’t too fond of that idea.
A very interesting concept, but from there, the story doesn’t really go where it could and should. The main characters are infected detectives notScully and notMulder, who realize that they are fighting for their lives as more and more The Beauty victims blow up. Every time they get close to the truth, something inconvenient gets in their way, starting with terrorists and moving on to an over the top pyscho murderer whose purpose is to add horrific scenes of violence when nothing else interesting is happening, I guess. The dialogue is not particularly inspired and the characters are forgettable, which is unfortunate since, again, the concept seems so good. Oh well.