Saturday, August 4, 2012

REVIEW: Wet Moon book 1: Feeble Wanderings

Written & Illustrated by Ross Campbell
Review: Will Dubbeld

Having collected comic books and graphic novels off and on for the better part of twenty years, I've accumulated quite a large and eclectic library. Granted, a good majority of these books are comprised of your Batmen, Spider-Men, and other four color heroes, but a respectable number of them are indie books. Strontium Dog, Usagi Yojimbo, Elfquest, and some really obscure bits like Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters all have found a good home in the Dubbeld Library. As much as I love my mainstream books (sometimes to a fault), I always keep an eye out for indie titles that could prove an interesting read.

Thus was I introduced to Ross Campbell's Wet Moon.

Wet Moon was advertised as some sort of Southern gothic rife with sex, murder, romance, betrayal and a dash of the supernatural, I inferred. I Expected some sort of Swamp Thing/Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil/To Kill A Mockingbird tale with crumbling antebellum plantations and bayous full of voodoo and sinister swamp folk. I knew I was mistaken as soon as I saw the cover displaying a portly goth girl reminiscent of Family Guy's Meg Griffin. With a disappointed sigh, I dove in. And immediately regretted my decision.

After page one, I knew that there would be no curly-tressed heroines in hoop skirts, for Ross Campbell's gothic vision is one of Hot Topic and those overly pretentious goth kids who hang out at coffee shops with bored looks plastered on pasty faces.

Wet Moon, named for the town that is the book's setting, tells the story of Cleo Lovedrop, our covergirl and main character. Cleo and her clique of mildly vapid goth girls are attending art school in the fictitious city of Wet Moon, where they proceed to do absolutely nothing interesting for precisely 156 pages. It seemed as though Campbell does his best to ape the dramatic storytelling and interpersonal relationship style of Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, and just falls flat on his face. None of the books' cast is engaging in the least, and are all archetypical goth caricatures complete with chelsea haircuts and way too many piercings. I realized about halfway through that if every character were to die in a fiery automobile accident on the way to an Emilie Autumn concert, I would not have cared. Poor Cleo and the gang have to deal with tribulations like her sister's anger at borrowing shoes without permission, a roommate stealing your vegetarian soup, butterflies in your stomach from seeing a guy that looks like Marilyn Manson circa 1994, and some villain posting 'Cleo eats it' all over campus.

Oh, the humanity...

The only character that was remotely interesting was a bald, willowy goth girl named Fern who was missing a hand and dressed like some fetish girl out of a Euro horror/porn comic like Spider Garden. I'm sure had she been allowed more time in the book she would have been just as uninteresting as the rest, though.

The art was okay, but even it seemed like Ross Campbell was trying to emulate Terry Moore's sharp lined black & white art, but has nowhere near the level of mastery at capturing the nuances of expression and facial features that Moore possesses.

The best thing about the book was it is a mercifully quick read.
I understand that there are six or so volumes in this series, and perhaps it develops into a masterpiece of modern graphic storytelling, but I doubt it. If Wet Moon couldn't capture my attention at some point during the first 156 pages, I question its ability to do so in volumes 2 through 6.

There are some really excellent indie books out there, but indie books like this one make me want to buy polybagged chromium glow-in-the-dark variant mainstream books by the score.

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