Thursday, July 25, 2013

 Paul Pope
Vertigo, 2002

      From slightly off the beaten path, yet still a conventional action oriented comic, Vertigo brought us Paul Pope's 100%; a book which envisions a gritty, futuristic urban stage for a drama which gives obvious nods to Bladerunner and the 5th Element, trading away some of the violence for romance and emotional expression.
     Most striking is Paul Pope's inking style.  In the liner notes he refers to the inking process as a "pure bliss" he looks forward to, while everything else is tedium.  Proportion is sent through his intuitive, selective fish eye lens.  Every object is reflective of an interpretive whim, mood dictating application and even atmosphere.  The drawback to this approach is of course lost clarity, which is most noticeable in his facial features, conjured up without enough deliberation, tending to resemble the artist in real life.  I feel they are wearing his lips, regardless of gender.  

    However, he is masterful regarding composition, light, and mood.  Often white paint and black ink mingle in expressive, purposeful storms which are quite amazing, especially when depicting motion, wind and rain.  

     100% follows the interweaving plots of several young New York archetypes: lost souls, strippers, struggling artists, and impoverished single mothers, all searching for human connection in a decaying and rambunctious environment.  Particularly disturbing is the idea of a strip club that features dancers who reveal more than what bare skin obscures.

     When he feels it necessary, Paul Pope brings objects forward with a stark tightened integrity, avoiding the kind of childish whimsy that might land him in the realm of experimental comics, or along with the disingenuous thug flailing of David Choe.

     Cyberpunk has become almost a household term, or a dirty word, depending on who you ask.  Characters have interactions with various handheld devices that are too close to home in 2013, despite being curvaceous and bug-like in Paul Pope's signature style.

     The world he imagines is indicative of a true New Yorker, dealing with that often romanticized brand of sleazy impermanence and desperation.  The characters are hardened by their mild dystopia.  100% avoids being outdated by managing to be just off kilter, strange, and humanistic enough to keep it refreshing even in an era where over stimulation, confusion, and identity loss have become banal.

--- A$ 

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