What happens when you take a chance on an indie comic about a true-to-life character and are completely blown away by its originality and expert storytelling? For most it’s share with friends, family and loved ones to ensure they read the damn thing. For others it’s to hide it away as that special book only you know about. I take a look at a book that very well could be that comic for you—spoiler alert: it was for me.
Shoplifter (Pantheon Publishing)
The first thing you’re going to notice when you pick up this book is the pink. There’s a lot of it, from the cover to every single page. Pink is used to cast shadows, accentuate buildings and clothes and serves as the main contrast. In fact, the entire book uses only black, white and pink, which makes everything pop nicely. It essentially creates a feel you’ve never seen before even though it’s set in our average everyday world.
This can’t end well.
I’m no expert on color, but writer and artist Michael Cho uses it in so many fun and interesting ways it adds a layer to the read. Take for instance the sky, which sometimes comes in pink, but at other moments white with pink clouds. It creates a complexity to the art that makes you think. The use of pink by no means makes this a girly read, but instead feels like a design choice to bring some simplicity to the art.
The color never distracts, which is the great wonder of this book. Cho’s lines are very deliberate and controlled, making the color almost secondary and less obvious. The curves of our protagonist, while ultimately a bit of a cartoony form, give her a wholesomeness that’s realistic. At the same time, Cho draws her cat almost cartoon like, which helps add a bit of humor and energy to the book, but again it suits the style and never feels out of place. And hell, you haven’t seen a brick wall look so good. Textures look great, too—from the protagonist’s boss’s coat to some amazing skyscraper skylines, it all looks marvelous.
The story is without a doubt genuine and introspective. The character is very realistic and there are probably many women (and men) like the protagonist, named Corrina, who had big dreams for themselves after college but fall into a rut. They have good jobs, make good money, but there’s something missing in their lives. That something they can’t quite pinpoint, but they know it’s not what they’re doing now. When the shoplifting does come up it doesn’t feel forced or out of place. Corrina’s reasoning is logical to her and it’s logical to the overall premise of feeling lost. In a world of social media and digital connectivity Cho touches on the fact that we’re all zombie-like and searching for a thrill in life you can’t get by being passive. It’s a strong message that anyone can relate to.
Cho’s plot is invigorating as well. This very much feels like an original indie film, not only because the character is so genuine, but because the plot surprises you. The character doesn’t know herself well enough to make the right decisions and when she does make mistakes she’s unsure of why she did that too. This allows the reader to think about her decisions, discover her for who she is, and figure her out. That makes the read fun, and with so much of it progressing without a single cliche you’re going to have a hard time not enjoying the read.
So, he’s important, right?
This is a breath of fresh air in the indie comic scene. A genuine character is explored and enjoyed with an artistic look and feel that adds layers of complexity.