- Posted by Johanna on March 21, 2006 at 7:30 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Ross Campbell
- PUBLISHER: Oni Press; $14.95 US
In Ross Campbell’s Wet Moon, Cleo’s just moved into a new dorm room at college. When she and her friends get together, they gossip and worry about what other people think of them. The point of this book isn’t what happens, though, but mood and atmosphere, captured through believable actions and conversation.
The way Campbell draws Cleo is terrific. She’s chunky, a solid presence, but cute, and she looks even younger than she is, emphasizing her vulnerability. Her pierced nose and lip together resemble a gate, keeping her thoughts trapped inside her mouth. Her heavy mary jane shoes and studded belt are typical goth trappings, but on her, they don’t look scary or outrageous, more like remnants of dressing up.
Her friend Trilby combines a nose and multiple ear piercings with braces, making me wonder if she fears magnets. She’s clearly still growing into her interests and personality, adopting this outrageous look to draw attention to herself and because it gives her a group to fit in with. She plays at being aggressive and uncaring, but her gawky tomboy attitude, topped off by mostly shaved head, shows her to be covering for her own uncertainty. She hides one of her favorite hobbies from her friends, afraid of being discovered a geek.
It’s refreshing to see a cast made up of so many different young women with so many varied body types, and they’re all firmly grounded in realistic, detailed settings. Campbell combines the perfect facial expressions with everyday dialogue (or the lack of it, when silence is called for). Everything’s ultimately physical, with the girls joking about the disgusting state of the school restrooms and characters identifying one another by smell. The attention the author pays to outfits and poses is refreshing, especially during a silent scene where Cleo examines her body in the mirror, trying to make herself something other than what she is. Every young woman has done something similar, wanting to reconcile herself with what she’s supposed to be but obviously not.
The clothes are often skimpy, but the wearers aren’t sexualized for the viewer. They’re teens, dressing as teens dress before they realize sometimes it’s more attractive to show less skin. Cleo’s halter top and miniskirt looks less seductive than quietly pathetic, a girl playing adult before she knows what it means. As the reader realizes what she’s recovering from, the costume becomes even sadder. The kids work so hard to look like they don’t care, properly goth by turning their dislike in on themselves with their piercings and fetishwear.
Pervading everything is the slow, oppressive feel of the weight of a Southern day. This book is gothic in more than one sense; beyond the characters’ costumes, it’s a sprawling story of a variety of unusual characters, combining to create a mosaic of their experiences. For many, it works beautifully as a glimpse into another world, one outgrown or never experienced. This is labeled Book 1, and the open ending gives hope the author carries through on the promise to create more stories with these fascinating characters.
(Book 2 is titled Unseen Feet and is now available. In it, Cleo makes a new friend as cast interactions become more complicated.)
More information is available at Ross Campbell’s website or the publisher’s website. Campbell has also created The Abandoned, a zombie comic in manga format, and previously contributed art to Too Much Hopeless Savages.