Sunday, February 11, 2007

Shotgun Wedding #1

Shotgun Wedding #1, September 2005, Speakeasy Comics
writer: Marc Bryant
illustrator: Jason King

Valentine's Day is just a few days away, this year appropriately landing on a "Hump Day," and while women across America are eagerly anticipating what their sweethearts have planned, their men are fervently procrastinating said planning, undoubtedly relying on our country's tireless department stores to aid their quest to satiate their significant others' impossibly high romantic standards for at least another year. That Valentine's Day so quickly follows Superbowl Sunday is no coincidence; while men have managed to secure an entire day during which their coveted "watching the game" is not only appropriate but a pop culture necessity, women made sure Valentine's Day crept up speedily afterward to remind them who's still boss. It's a conspiracy that may date back to Julius Caesar's first draft of the modern calendar, though I haven't done my research. Yet.

Speakeasy Comics' Shotgun Wedding tackles a different angle of the Mars/Venus rivalry entirely. Enter Cameron Benante and Julia Carbone, the great-grandchildren of former associates-turned-rival mob bosses, who families proclaim a truce in the face of a mutual enemy by arranging their marriage, lest their respective allowances suddenly cease. Of course, Cameron and Julia aren't crazy about the idea, and they're even less nuts about each other, evidenced by a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-like brawl in their honeymoon suite that dominates most of this issue. In the end, they resolve to work together in an attempt to make their families regret the arrangement, a resolution that I assume dominates the series and results in an inevitable romance that ironically secures their union, despite their families' remorse. Hopefully, this series isn't so predictable, but if the characters actually achieve their goal, the title is over, right? Could Shotgun Wedding write itself into a corner and inadvertently shoot itself in the foot?

While Bryant's writing is engaging enough to drive this high concept (the Speakeasy comics I've read seem to embrace this lofty material, offering a nice alternative to the potentially intimidating Vertigo fare out there), Jason King's art is worth analysing, if only for its uncanny ability to pop off the page. Initially, his use of color reminds me of a conservative take on the Supermarket style we experienced last week, with less neon and more realistic tones, but while Kristian's line work was notably hand drawn, I wonder if King's pages were exclusively computer-produced. His lines are too perfect in their varying thickness, and in some cases, the linework is completely washed out by color; while the style has a pop appeal, in many ways it strikes me as too rigid to express any necessary fluidity, especially when the characters are in action. The fight scene entertained me, but also consistently reminded me that I was reading a comic book, not engaging in the plight of two people to whom I should have been able to relate. The mechanics of the page were simply too noticeable. Is this the direction of Shatter, the computer-generated book of the '80s? Call me a purist, but I prefer the hand drawn stuff. Comics to me have always been the marriage of words and pictures, but when everything is generated on the computer, from script to finished page, it seems . . . too arranged.

Perhaps a comic book about two people that have to be together isn't very fitting for Valentine's Day, but this story is as much about obligation as it is about romance, and for the cynic, so is February 14th. Yes, if one if truly in love, every day should include at least a moment of romance and affection as a natural extension of one's lifestyle. Valentine's Day is an affront to this effort, requiring romance in the context of commercialism, almost implying that the effort need not be daily if someone can pull off this one day effectively. It's another forced arrangement with potentially disastrous consequences. It's no wonder we men put it off. No one likes being caught in the crosshairs, even if they're Cupid's.

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