Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.
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The Electric Sublime is a new crime thriller comic from IDW Publishing and our contributor, Darryll Robson, takes an excited look at the first issue.
Review: The Electric Sublime #1
IDW are branching out from their hit franchise titles and starting to include some brand new, slightly different, comic books. The Electric Sublime is one such title and it couldn’t be that much further away from the likes of Aliens and Transformers. It’s a wild ride into the realms of the Art world; an outlandish crime drama; and a mind blowing fantasy.
Do you remember you’re first trip to the Louvre, shuffling around the gallery floor with all the others, curious to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa?
And when you finally get there, you got that overwhelming sense of disappointment?
And so starts The Electric Sublime but in this version of events the disappointment is drowned by shock as everyone in the room notices that the Mona Lisa has been altered; she now appears to be winking.
The Art world is in a panic. Across the world multiple crimes are being committed and the only connection is a thick line drawn symbol of a winking woman.
Director Breslin heads up the Bureau of Artistic Integrity and she knows that she is out of her depth. The Mona Lisa incident is by far the most news worthy but the vast array of crimes are almost too much for her to handle.
Desperate times call for desperate measures so Breslin heads to a secret institute to enlist the aid of one of the patients: Art Brut. Art appears crazy, out of touch with reality but beneath it all he is also a genius with an amazing ability but to know what it is would be to spoil the first issue.
Elsewhere, Mrs Thompson is taking her son Dylan to a home that she hopes will be able to help him. He is distant, detached. He has an amazing talent, almost dismissed by his mother, when it comes to visual communication but severely lacks verbal talents. Unbeknown to mother and son, his sketching has wider implications and, as the field of dead cows insinuates, not all of them implications are going to be good.
First up, are you a fan of Art? It would be too easy to assume that any reader is just because they read comics but it is after all a visual medium so some Art appreciation is expected. There are many gags and references to famous works of Art, artistic movements and even art practices within the pages of this comic. The Art world informs the tone of this comic as much as the narrative does and that may be too much for some people to stomach.
Also, if you’re not a fan of modern and contemporary Art you may struggle with the overriding aesthetic. Although this comic starts in the Louvre with the Mona Lisa, that sense of disappointment with one of the most famous paintings in the world that comes across through the opening scene is a subtle criticism of ‘High Art’. W. Maxwell Prince and Martin Morazzo are saying that there is much more to see than this overhyped populist painting, and they take this commentary further when they actually desecrate the painting. Just as Marcel Duchamp gave the Mona Lisa a face lift and a saucy title, here the writer/artist make her appear to wink which in turn makes her a little bit cheeky. That is before they go the whole hog and destroy her completely.
There is more Art criticism within the pages of The Electric Sublime, the overriding question about what is Art? is very much a part of the subtext but it doesn’t threaten to derail the narrative. In the same way that Herbert Read’s The Green Child expressed Artistic theories as fantasy entertainment, The Electric Sublime lays out contextual ideas in the form of a crime story. A crazy crime story, but a crime story none the less.
Another link to The Green Child is the concept of traversing levels of existence. Art Brut ‘dreampaints’ and has the ability to move between the real world and the painted realms. This gives the artist a wonderful opportunity to play with the rules of mainstream comics. This idea is something that I am hoping will be used a lot more further down the line; with the ability to exist in the Art, Morazzo can escape the confines of the structured American style comic and create something that isn’t seen very often on the self. The cover itself invokes memories of the early 90’s DC Vertigo comics, the likes of Shade The Changing Man and Animal Man. These comics took risks back then and it’s about time we had some new titles that took those risks. The Electric Sublime might just be one of those.
The story is fun and exciting but it’s also disturbing and shocking. The young boy, Dylan, has an extraordinary but horrific talent. The first scene that he is in is written very straight laced, a simple scene of a mother trying to comfort her son but outside of the comfort of the car something darker is going on. The reader is treated to an unsettling scene as the Thompson’s drive, centre panel, toward a respectable house while death lays in their wake. It’s an image of contrasts with the bright red car pin pricking the centre like a warning; here comes danger.
There are some interesting characters introduced which Price plays with just enough to get the reader interested but doesn’t lay everything out on the line from the get go. These guys are going to grow over the series.
The art work is a delight as it mixes the mundane and the outrageous so effortlessly that as a reader you just accept the appearance of a tall, skinny looking Andy Warhol look alike with a flamethrower. And Mat Lopes’ colors really bring the entire comic to life. The contrast and transitions between the scenes is seamless thanks to the varying color palette used by Lopes. I especially like the institution where we first meet Art, the grey shading on the white walls adds depth and atmosphere in a difficult location. It also helps to enhance the art work that Art is creating so much so that the colourful splash page leaps out at you and forces a pause in the story; a chance to contemplate what is actually going on.
The Electric Sublime isn’t going to be an easy comic for some people to get into and with all Art there will be those that dismiss this because they don’t want to take time out to understand it. Which is a shame becasue this is an excellent first issue which challenges as well as entertains.
What do you think of the Electric Sublime arc?
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Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. He occasionally uses his Twitter account @DarryllRobson to share comic related stuff.
A surreal modern crime thriller. The Electric Sublime is an outstanding and thoughtful read with wonderful Art. One of the best first issues of the year.