When it comes to stories of a domestic nature, there are a few things you need to check off in order for it to work. First and foremost is characters who talk and act in a realistic manner. Second is the world around them needs to feel lived in and functioning. If you’re missing these two the story won’t read true and nobody wants to read a domestic tale that’s false. I recently picked up an OGN with domestic issues at the forefront and a much more disturbing underbelly brewing beneath it. Is it good?
Bad Summer Volume 1 (RADCO)
The book opens in Los Angeles on a couple sleeping, or trying to sleep, on a very hot summer morning. Alain looks for some loving but doesn’t get any and he must go through the motions of his day walking to and from work where he bags groceries. Meanwhile his neighbor seems to be building an inappropriate relationship with his girl. Oh and it’s hot as hell and nobody knows why. And as we’ve learned from Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, heat combined with domestic issues creates much bigger problems.
The dog is foreshadowing! I think…
The fact that this is billed as an environmental horror is actually a bit of a spoiler. In fact, the beauty of this series is the slow boil that builds between Alain and his girlfriend. Much like film noir, nothing is at is it seems, and Alain must deal with his girlfriend flirting with the neighbor while having to endure a crappy job, bills and the heat. It’s all very relatable and one of the strengths of writer Ed Laroche’s work. It’s no surprise then that this comic has been optioned by Logan Pictures (A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT) as a feature film with Paul Minor to direct. It’s instantely relatable, you’re quickly engrossed in Alain’s story and at the same time a looming disaster seems to be creeping in on the story. The comic periodically cuts to a mysterious dog barking which is much like this creep you feel while you read it. There’s danger looming; you can hear it, but you don’t know where it is or how to stop it.
The art by Laroche is fantastic, as if it were a movie. The pacing is great as it cuts between medium, close up and long shots always conveying something in the story. For instance, in a tense moment between Alain and his girlfriend a panel cuts to a close up of the overhead light. This gives the reader a sense of distance to the characters and is exactly how they must feel for each other in the moment.
He also uses some photography mixed in with drawings between chapters to make things pop.
What works even better?
The conclusion to this issue is simply out of nowhere completely bonkers and absolutely riveting. You are right there with the characters; the dynamics between them dramatic and gut punching. This is aided by how the book leads you on and then shatters your expectations. When it finally ends you’ll feel equal parts shock and awe as you come to realize everything is changed. Nothing is going to be the same again and that’s compelling stuff. The fact is you’ll want to read the next volume. Right now. It’s that good.
Dude you’re not listening!
Okay, so what doesn’t work?
I wish there was more photography throughout the story as it makes things so vivid and real. One might also argue the environmental aspect is more background noise than anything and the eventual rearing of its head will take some by surprise. Things escalate rather quickly to the point where one might say, “wait that’s a bit much.”
Is It Good?
This is a fantastic first volume that is highly relatable and compelling. You’ll be on board with the protagonist to the point where, when the shit does hit the fan, you’re not going to want to put this down or for the story to ever end.