Karmen by Guillem March (Joker), review

Karmen by Guillem March (Joker), review

Karmen by Guillem March (Joker)

Panini Comics brings Karmen to Italy. This is the first test as a complete author of the talented Spanish designer Guillem March made for the French publisher Dupuis (for which he had already made other works but only as a designer). The name of March is not new to comics readers, especially DC ones, for which he has designed several newspapers including Gotham City Sirens and the flagships Batman and Detective Comics but above all because he currently sees him busy on the new regular series dedicated to Joker started by a few months in the United States.

Karmen, death makes you ... beautiful

Karmen has the task of ferrying souls from life to death to the afterlife. The appearance of him does not lie: he has fuchsia hair and shows off his graces or his skeleton! The soul she has to ferry is that of Cata, a young student who has just committed suicide by cutting her veins in the bathtub of her apartment because she has never been able to declare herself to her childhood friend Xisco.

Cata's reaction when she realizes she is dead and who Karmen really is is obviously between horrified and dismayed, but then Karmen herself offers her the opportunity to take an incredible journey, in the few minutes between life and death, to discover more of herself. What did she really bring her to make that extreme gesture? Is it just the pain of love or is there something else underneath? Cata, immaterial and invisible, crosses the city of Palma de Mallorca among relatives, friends and above all strangers.

A new awareness and a pinch of resignation begin to mature in her which soon turns into terror when she discovers that perhaps the decision to kill himself was dictated only by a terrible misunderstanding. Will Karmen be able to help Cata?

Karmen, between Valentina and Beetlejuice

Guillem March bases a story halfway between Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol, Tim Burton's Beetlejuice but above all Valentina from Crepax obtaining a surprisingly fresh result and engaging and quite original in skillfully mixing the sources of inspiration. March builds a simple and effective plot whose pivot is the awareness of the protagonist Cata and, although it is in fact an introspective story, the author never falls into the temptation to weigh down the writing with millennial sophisms and banalities on feelings and relationships. interpersonal while maintaining a vein of ironic and a sincere and at times sinisterly rational tone.

March's narrative tension is the atavistic one between Love and Death but not in a romantic-decadent sense. The idea of ​​representing the two protagonists Cata and Karmen naked (or rather Karmen more than ghostly "transparent" naked) represents on the one hand a ploy to show the undoubted drawing skills of March (and his love for a certain erotic comic) but it is also a subtle retaliation to put Cata to the bare.

The pun is not accidental because Death becomes the ultimate horizon through which to rethink oneself and one's beliefs. It is not just about pains of Love, it is about looking at the world from the outside (the metaphor of flight is pregnant in this sense) and shedding pre-concepts, but also fears and uncertainties, of everyday life. The author then exploits the home setting, Palma de Mallorca, his hometown, to reinforce this concept.

The narrative then becomes choral, and partly dreamlike and sometimes surreal, offering Cata a varied carousel of humanity to confront while Karmen's rational point of view unmasks the cynicism and victimhood of the “old” Cata. The author then, net of the simplicity of the plot, manages to rearrange the ending, which can be guessed from the very first bars, in a less romantic key than expected, yielding against some less successful passage such as the resolution of Karmen's mission.

Karmen is a really good read, out of the stereotypes into which unfortunately non-genre comics have fallen in recent years, especially when love and introspection are brought up. Guillem March, on the other hand, wisely doses the fantastic-dreamlike element with irony and an intimate and personal story, offering a true and vital point of view on doubts and uncertainties that afflict, in different ways, many people of any sex, age and religion but without falling into obvious banalities.

Karmen, the supple anatomy of Guillem March

From a graphic point of view, Karmen shows an incredible maturation of Guillem March's stroke and style. In fact, the Spanish designer moved in the wake of a certain school devoted to highlight, touching the grotesque, the plasticity of bodies and facial expressions (Kelley Jones, Norm Breyfogle just to name two mainstream designers who evidently refers to March) with a style always clean and a particular attention to female anatomies.

It is precisely this attention to the female body that is the basis from which its evolution begins, which reaches an important maturation, abandoning the grotesque plasticity of bodies in favor of anatomical rigor sensual and super-realistic (just see the skill in drawing the breasts of the protagonist Cata never excessive and always subject to the laws of physics and anatomy) in which the inks are less thick and intrusive and the hatching more sparing and effective. In this sense, it is also the expressiveness of the faces, more measured and that, cleaned of any exaggeration, becomes extremely vibrant and effectively empathic.

It is the construction of the table and the layout that also represent a living motif interest from a graphic point of view. Here too, the influence of Crepax and his Valentina is evident, but also of Neal Adams' Deadman and another Spanish master, José Luis Garcia Lopez. March places the bodies in space in a whimsical and unusual way, creating on the one hand an alien point on reality and on the other allowing the use of extremely suggestive bird's-eye and bird's-eye shots (also thanks to his skill in reconstructing architecturally the city) in which the perspective distortions fade into a fleeting border between the real and the supernatural.

While making Karmen for the French market, March remains tied to an American-style table construction with an average of 6/8 panels per table and often indulging in double and single and double splash-pages. However, the tables do not have the typical rigidity of comics: there is continuous alternation between verticality and horizontality as well as shots (even unusual ones, such as those from below) while inserts, irregular squares and distribution of the closure on the splashes give dynamism for an engaging and immersive.

March's excellent and characteristic color work should also be mentioned. His palette is made of very pale pastel tones. Pinks, grays and browns blend together giving the story the sensation of a reality suspended between dreams and analysts. To break the balance there are the flat blacks and yellows for a strongly impressionist and particularly fascinating approach.

The volume

Panini Comics packs a nice large-format hardback volume (21 × 28 cm) with an excellent graphic rendering, thick and coated paper, but above all with an excellent binding that allows an easy and very satisfying reading and contemplation of the tables by Guillem March. Adaptation and translation are also very good, as they are smooth and free of indecision even in the most difficult situations when idiomatic expressions are adapted or some reference is made to pop culture. From the point of view of extra content, the volume is accompanied by a short bio of the author and a small gallery of sketches.

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