June 2006

Carrie Jones

fiction

Pacify by Steve Perkins

Pacify is less a graphic novel than an exploded short story. This short comic is the tale of Sarcophaga, a fly-headed superstar that manages to be a super-stud despite his arresting appearance. From the moment we meet Sarcophaga, he’s already letting us know he is aware that his story is jam-packed with comic book clichés, but hey, we should read on anyway because the ending is going to be more fraught than Spiderman fighting Catwoman over the last pair of tights. Too bad the book he’s stuck in reads more like a dashed off final exam for Sequential Storytelling 101.

From his creation by a mysterious and power-mad mustard exec, to his well-publicized demise, there is nothing remotely engaging about Sarcophaga as a bad-boy hero. His snide asides come off as weak writing and his supposed allure just can’t be imagined, even with all the disbelief in the world suspended. We also meet the Bagladies, Sarcophaga’s father figure’s paper-bag-masked mind-control tools that use anonymity coupled with hot bods to sell us dangerous products, their curvy forms a repeated visual motif. We eventually meet the pivotal character, the mystery person that ties the sloppy plot together, and let me tell you, it is a less-than-amazing reveal, especially considering that a giant part of the misdirection relies on Perkins’s apparently poor grasp of sexual anatomy.

Pacify is littered with one-page gags that are meant to be digs at the advertising industry, Hollywood, and us, the gullible consumers. In one instructive diagram made to look like a page out of a marketing text, we are shown that women’s bodies are often used quite effectively to sell frivolous products. Scandal! Unfortunately it takes much sharper blades than Perkins wields to filet that dead horse, and the satire aspect comes off flat and irritating, a distraction in an already spastic narrative.

The art is painted panels mixed with more traditional line drawings, using blocky, digital-looking fonts that clash with the generally moody color scheme. Perkins is at his best when he takes a single subject and elaborates it in a painterly, static style. Occasionally a non sequitur that Perkins throws in works well, like a bright page that uses two-color line drawings and coloring book graphics to illustrate the creeping, nasty hold fast food has on kids, but most all the pages that lack the detailing of the painted panels look hastily scribbled afterthoughts. The last few pages of the book are given over to the fans, who seem just as interested in rendering the perfect Baglady nipple as they are in celebrating Sarcophaga’s bulbous, many-paned orbs. It just goes to show that the B-horror movie formula sometimes fails -- extra titties can’t always do the work for you.

Pacify by Steve Perkins
Image Comics
ISBN: 1582405921
96 Pages