Writer: Kevin Freeman
Artist: Stan Yan
Publisher: Ape Entertainment
Comments: Subculture is that rare comic series which attempts to poke fun at an entire culture, mainly that of comic book fandom. While I think artist Stan Yan has a gift for rendering character expressions to reinforce Kevin Freeman’s goofy narratives, it is a shame that the latter’s writing is so dependent on stereotypes and clichés to shape the world his characters inhabit.
While I understand that Freeman is attempting to hold a mirror up to his readers to expose their subculture of RPG gaming, video games, television and comic book reading, I think he relies too much on every hackneyed stereotype: The muscle-bound superhero, the fat slobbering comic book shop owner, the geeky friends who are intimidated by girls, the roommate who needs to “get out more” and is into comics starring girls with huge boobs, and the overweight chick with loose morals.
These are all elements which have been spoofed in other stories and media before, maybe not to the exaggerated degree in which Freeman takes them in Subculture, but it is hardly original material. Freeman also makes some dangerous generalizations. He dubs the comic book geeks “social misfits” and “the bottom feeders of the art world” which only serves to reinforce society’s tendencies to relegate all members of fandom to their parent’s basement. A shame the writer can’t be more creative in that respect.
The book’s redeeming factor is the strong relationship between its protagonist Jason and his hot new girlfriend, Noel. Noel is a fascinating character; she’s the girl who’s got it together and isn’t afraid to give people the middle finger when she thinks it’s warranted. She’s confident and fun, and she isn’t bad too look at either, but not in that fake silicon breasted Pamela Anderson way, but in that sexy blend of gothic and artistic qualities which would make some fanboys drool on themselves.
The second issue picks up with Jason and Noel on a date at the bowling alley and his response to their budding relationship. This part of the book is its best offering, not only because Freeman takes his time in developing the couple’s romantic interests, but because in doing so he relies less on the stereotypes which were such a crutch in the first issue, and more on an honest examination of two people attempting to get to know each other.
Noel and Jason both work in retail, but Jason really hates his job, and Noel takes steps towards making his working conditions more tolerable. There are some funny interactions between the two, but the dialogue seems genuine and never forced. Noel and Jason’s dealings with each other at her art exhibit are also a joy to behold, and the misunderstanding between the two offers a nice twist to the story.
Final Word: There are some funny bits in this comic including a few which had me smiling throughout. I laughed at the reference to Arthur dating a girl on Sims 2 which was “probably a dude.” Though Freeman has said the book’s primary focus is on fans of comics, gaming, anime, science fiction and the like, it fares better when it broadens its scope to an examination of society as a whole, rather than filtering its character studies through a literary prism of trite generalizations.
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