- Posted by Johanna on October 5, 2006 at 5:00 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Matthew Loux
- PUBLISHER: Oni Press; $11.95 US
Reading the description of this graphic novel’s premise — three teenage boys hang out and play video games until one decides to pursue the girl he’s got a crush on, resulting in (according to the publisher) “a giant rock ‘n’ roll videogame adventure!” — one might be forgiven for thinking that Oni is trying to reach the audience who loved their surprise hit Scott Pilgrim.
Sadly, this new book comes nowhere close. In contrast to SP’s energy and entertainment value, Sidescrollers‘s mood matches that of its characters, a lazy “what happens next?” approach that makes pushing through its length a chore instead of a joy.
The plot, such as it is, involves Matt’s crush on new girl and co-worker Amber. Amber dates Richard, the local jock king, while Matt’s too shy to even speak to her. When they’re not bemoaning their social status, the boys banter about cereal mascots and other trendy bits of pop culture trivia. I quit reading when he and his buddies decided vandalism was an appropriate way to handle their repressed resentment. It became too immature for me to recover from.
Loux’s art is an acquired taste. The incredibly thick, bold lines outline characters who resemble forms more than people. Shapes are exaggerated beyond style to grotesques, with painfully pointed shoulders, elbows, and chins. Given that one of the plot points revolves around a cat, the pet’s greater resemblance, when drawn, to a ferret got in my way as a reader.
I know we’re supposed to sympathize with Matt’s crush and think that he would be a much better choice for Amber than Richard, but I’ve outgrown that automatic identification with the geek underdog. It’s a lazy plotting shortcut, and as a character, Matt is given nothing to recommend him to Amber.
Why should a girl choose a boy who can’t speak to her and even hides from her just because he thinks she’s hot? I know that’s the expected storyline, popular with those readers likely to identify heavily with Matt and his buddies, but I keep visualizing him ignoring her to play videogames with the guys. Meanwhile, it’s hinted that Richard is secretly attracted to men, an unnecessary implication that I hope was followed up on. Without some payoff, it feels like an unpleasantly immature approach: “he’s not only mean and bullying, he’s gay, too!”
If you’d like to decide for yourself, there’s a 71-page preview (out of a total 216 pages) available online. There’s also information about the book at the publisher’s website, and the artist has a livejournal. He previously illustrated F-Stop, also from Oni.