Francés, Victoria, writer and artist, Misty Circus. Dark Horse, June 2013.
Barker, Clive and Miller, Mark, writers, Jang, Haemi, artist, Next Testament. Boom! Studios, May 2013.And now for something completely different: Misty Circus. A cobweb-shrouded fairytale, it is less comic and more art with annotations. Sasha Poupon is the ten-year-old son of a mime in 1920s Paris. Being a mime back then was apparently not a lot more lucrative than being a mime is now. Though his family struggled to keep him in stripey socks and oversized bowties on his father’s meagre salary, they were happy for a time. Unfortunately for Sasha Poupon (I’m assuming he is the great-grandchild of the more famous Grey), this is very obviously not the kind of story where the protagonist gets to have a happy home life. His mother falls victim to the plague and his father doesn’t come home one evening – perhaps he fell into a well and his mime rope ladder wasn’t long enough to get him out. After escaping from the orphanage he is placed in, he meets an equally lonely and abandoned cat named Josh LeChat. Together, they discover Misty Circus, a strange place that seems to be able to disappear and reappear in other places at will.
Misty Circus walks a very fine line between quaintly dramatic and eye-rollingly overwrought. It would be very easy for this sepia-infused, teary-eyed artwork to become a melodrama so ridiculously tragic that you would need to read it sprawled out on a fainting couch, with the back of your hand pressed to your forehead. Somehow – I’m not really sure how – it manages to avoid that fate and instead becomes a rather adorable little fantasy punctuated with lush art that expertly fits the mood of the story. It’s not for everyone, but if you find yourself drawn to the artwork on the cover, grab it, as you’ll assuredly be pleased with everything inside, as well.
Next Testament was a rather mixed bag. Is it some sort of weird rite of passage that all older, white, male comics writers have to write stories about old white guys who are torn from their mundane lives by some kind of magical or fantastic event? I mean, I suppose that ultimately, when people have been living the same sort of life long enough, ennui sets in and we become desperate for some big and exciting thing to happen. I get that maybe it’s a thing that comics writers think everyone can understand, but it’s not as if old, white guys have the monopoly on boredom. I would love to read comics about some kind of profoundly bizarre, apocalyptic turn of events that was all set in motion by a factory employee.
Julian Demond, who has perhaps one of the most ludicrously foreshadowing names I’ve ever run across outside of a James Bond movie, has a dream that leads him to uncover a pyramid in the desert. He is certain that his future fame and fortune will be found inside it. This is a rather clever and interesting reference to the Dream Stele, an Egyptian artefact on which is printed the story of Prince Tuthmosis who, after falling asleep near the Great Sphinx, had a dream in which the Sphinx promises him the throne of Egypt if he clears the sand away from around it. While they both did similar amounts of ancient housekeeping, Tuthmosis became a pharaoh and Julian freed Wick, a god who looks like what would happen if the aftermath of a paintball game became a sentient, muscular man bent on massive destruction and brutal mass murder.
The art in Next Testament is brilliant. It’s not just Wick’s design – which is, despite my description, fantastic – it’s the tiny details, like a believably messy study that really make the world realistic. The story is passable – the characters are all very stock, from Julian, the old white guy whose power and virility have been magically renewed; to Tristan, his broodingly handsome son whose spidey senses tell him that he must go and find his father; to Vera, his wife who only says nine words (ten, if you count “hmmmm”); and Elspeth, his soon-to-be-daughter-in-law whose function is helping with exposition. Wick is obviously arrogant and callous, with a personality like a freshly sharpened bayonet.
I’m not going to read any more of Next Testament. It’s pretty easy to see where it’s going from here and I don’t think I need to follow it on that journey, even though the art is amazing. You guys do your midlife crisis thing and I’ll be over here reading Hellboy.