ADVANCE REVIEW! Evelyn Evelyn will come out on September 21, 2011.
Depending on your tastes, Evelyn Evelyn is either a mediocre gimmick comic or a clever, multi-media performance art piece. A tie-in to a musical act, it tells the story of the characters Eva and Lynn from the band Evelyn Evelyn, and provides some backstory and context for their songs.
Evelyn Evelyn is the creation of Amanda Palmer (wife of Neil Gaiman, singer for the Dresden Dolls) and Jason Webley (who I only ever knew as “That Accordion Guy Who Sounds Like Tom Waits” busking on the streets of Seattle). In their act, Palmer and Webley dress up as a pair of conjoined twins, named Eva and Lynn, and perform songs in character with Palmer strumming a guitar while Webley mans the fret board. They have created a backstory for their Eva/Lynne character, and all of their songs come from this fictional history. Both Palmer and Webley deny that Evelyn Evelyn is just the two singers dressed up in costume, and insist that the girls are real people. And they play kazoos.
Done in the “Dark Cabaret” style (a genre entirely invented so that people wouldn’t use the word “goth” to describe it, but which is clearly “goth.”), Evelyn Evelyn is reminiscent of Emily the Strange, A Series of Unfortunate Events and the dark humor of Tim Burton and Edward Gorey. The influences are abundantly clear.
The story is straightforward and simple, and follows the girls through a sequence of tragedies until their inevitable success. Their birth kills their mother, followed by their father when the attending doctor tries to separate the twins with a chainsaw. A kindly Sheriff rescues them, but he only lasts a few pages until a collision with a chicken truck sees the Sheriff dead and the girls raised in cages on a chicken farm. The chicken farmer dies, and the girls are sold to some child pornographers who keep a stable of children in a place called Underwood and promote Eva and Lynn as the “Unusual Twins.” For Eva and Lynn, their time at Underwood is their “happy time,” with their good friend the child model Sandy Fishnets. But the good times can’t last, and the girls are eventually sold off to a circus where they learn to play the guitar and perform, and become best friends with the conjoined-twin elephants Bimba and Kimba. Who promptly die. More unlikely stuff happens, until the twins eventually discover MySpace, where anyone can be a music star. And so it goes.
Cynthia von Buhler’s art is purposely childlike. It looks at times like it was drawn with crayon. Her style is static and posed, with Eva and Lynn looking like cut-paper dolls placed in the scenery. Even when they are swinging from a trapeze, there is no sense of movement. Her style fits the Dark Cabaret theme, and is never even slightly erotic. The girls live in a stagnate world, always in the same purple dress and with the same wide-eyed expression.
I could see some people really going for Evelyn Evelyn, but it just didn’t do it for me. This is a comic where you have to be into the style — you have to be a fan of Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley and the Dark Cabaret scene — to really love Evelyn Evelyn. Otherwise it just falls flat and the point is hard to see. I know it is just a matter of taste; I have a friend who is the exact target market for this comic, and who thinks it is the most awesome thing ever.
But it isn’t for me.