A long time ago, I used to watch a lot of bad movies. My friends and I would plunk down on a couch and watch movies we had no intention of enjoying in the traditional sense. We would even go see movies we thought would be terrible in theaters, thereby contributing to the companies and people who seem content to make sloppy, lazy movies for as long as they get paid to do so. The last bad movie I saw in theaters was Shark Night, which is why I'm thinking about this while writing a review for The Trip. You see, they're the same story. They're both gory horror stories about stereotypical college kids going on a vacation. They both have scary, stereotypical redneck villains. They both have casual racism. They're both awful. The Trip is Shark Night where the sharks have been replaced by a Native American drug MacGuffin. If you thought Shark Night was a great movie, then I don't want to know you, but if you do think that, you may also enjoy The Trip.
Unlike the comic as a whole, the art is actually not terrible. It's also not "hauntingly beautiful" like the blurb I got said it would be, but the frantic, sketchy art is expressive and compliments the book's gory bits. The faces are, more often that not, distractingly out of place, though. David Brame seems to have a particular problem with mouths. Case in point:
In this panel, he looks really pissed, but in the context of the story, he's about to make $50. He has no reason to be as angry as he looks in that panel. There are also a few times where the shadows seem to be indicating a mood inappropriate to the story, and the elderly Native American character's face wrinkles look like they were drawn on randomly. For the art to be as bad as the story, though, they would have had to forgotten to draw character's body parts, or drawn the main character's rapist father with growing red eyes and cloven feet.
The dialogue is either bland or amusingly cliché, and the plot holes are numerous: before spring break, Nakisha and Karen don't know each other, but after spring break they have classes together. The drug affects a Native American in the prologue within minutes, but takes days to start killing the characters.
The Trip is really at it's best, though, when it's ridiculously heavy handed. Trying to convey how unsubtle The Trip is has humbled my ability to conjure ridiculous similes ("like a Katamari that rolled through an all-sumo wrestler orchestra," was the best I could do). The Trip is as subtle as, well, this:
Has your keen, rigorous intellect determined what the book will be about? Maybe those massive rainbow letters at the bottom of the page can help you out. Also, it's completely relevant to the story to know these Native American characters who we never meet again aren't speaking English. "Overcoming fear," is not a terrible theme for a horror story, but the theme is so completely unexplored in The Trip that it might as well not be there. The main character, Karen, was physically and sexually abused by her father as a child, and her fear of her father is what she needs to overcome in the story. A genuine attempt to convey what a struggle between a character and their childhood traumas would look like might have made for an interesting subtext to a horror story, but writing that would have required effort. Instead, it's hand waved by the MacGuffin fear drug and a Native American spirit guide.
The "Native American spirit guide" is actually one of the least offensive characters in the series. This is comics, so I shouldn't be disappointed or surprised when the female protagonist (whose sexual abuse is a major part of the story) shows up on the cover in a character-breaking mall-goth-burlesque costume, or that her last line is a cliché expression of romantic feelings for the token "nice guy" character who saves her life. Also, (surprise surprise) the fat guy loves to eat food all the time, and he dies from a heart attack caused by a nightmare he has about eating too much ice cream. I mean, the fat character also has a repulsive personality, couldn't he have died from his fear of being too shitty a human being to ever have a meaningful relationship? That shit is way scarier than ice cream. "Fat guy eats too much" and "eye candy female protagonist" also aren't even the most offensive parts. That honor goes to the Native American man who has the MacGuffin-fear drug stolen from him while he's passed out in a chair amid a pile of beer cans. When he wakes up, almost every word out of his mouth is based on someone's half-assed conception of Native American beliefs that's designed to move the plot along, like when he's dying and he tells his grandson he needs to help the kids survive their hallucinations. His grandson says he has no clue how to do that, and the grandfather says, "It's in your blood." And of course the kid ends up helping Karen through her hallucinations, because white people are rich, black people are good at basketball and Native Americans can always talk you down from a bad trip.
Oh, and the two stoner characters are paranoid, which is really only offensive because it shows how little effort was put into making this comic. The only characters in this story that aren't offensive are the ones the writer didn't bother developing. For example, one of the characters is clinically depressed. You might expect that the fears that the MacGuffin drug conjures up might expand on that. You would be wrong, turns out she's afraid of zombies. Or death in general, maybe? I can't tell. Naturally, she reacts to her fear by writhing around and tearing her own skin off. To be fair, many characters end up tearing off their own skin while on the drug, which is a really convenient side-effect for a drug in a horror comic.
This story would have been better as a movie. In fact, The Trip highlights an oft overlooked difference between comics and film: heckling a comic is not nearly as fun as heckling a movie. Heckling a movie with your friends is a communal experience, whereas heckling a comic is a lonely experience usually involving the Internet. This comic needs friends and alcohol and more than a little boredom, to be worth the time it takes to consume it. The Action Lab website says it's been optioned, but there's no shortage of bad movies so, despite what I just said, I don't really care if it gets adapted. The end of the book also suggests that there could be a sequel, prompting me to think up good sequel names (The Trip 2: The Stonering, The Trip 2: Toloache's Revenge, The Trip 2: Let's All Tear Our Faces Off). If The Trip sells enough copies to warrant a sequel, it will be one of the few times a comic book has made me cry.
Since moving to South Korea, Logan Beaver has written plays, comics, and flash fiction (he did a lot of that before, mind you), gone on adventures and drank more on a Tuesday than is socially acceptable outside of college. He lives there with
his girlfriend Collette, and his laptop Pornbot 5000. He is trying to learn how to speak Korean and draw, both of which are very hard. He thinks that, by learning and doing new things, people become something better than they once were, like Pokemon. If he were a Pokemon, he would be Snorlax, though he is generally unfamiliar with Pokemon beyond the original 151.