Emily the Strange #1: The Boring Issue

Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2005
By: Steve Saville

Creator(s): Cosmic Debris
Publishers: Dark Horse
From: House
Price: $7.95 (USD)

I am not sure if it is wise to dedicate the first issue of a new comic to teenage boredom. There will always be a risk that the comic delivers on the topic. This would be one of several concerns that I have about Emily's comic debut.

First of all it is a little tricky to review a comic that is heavily reliant on the visual effect when all I have is a printers proof version. In effect it is like reading a bad photocopy, As a result I can only assume that the 48 ages of black, white and red art [with the occasional outburst of full colour] will look truly stunning when they hit the stores. For the purposes of this review though I will have to take the creators word for it.

Anyone who has wandered through a shopping mall over the last decade will be familiar with the character of Emily The Strange. She is that brooding little Goth girl featured on many an item of teenage clothing and accessories that can be found in any teen orientated clothing store. It would be fair to say that this comic places a huge reliance on this recognition factor. It seems to me that there is an assumed iconographic status attached to Emily, this may well be the case, for the sake of the comic I certainly hope so as the storylines tend to be slight.

I was fascinated to see how a character normally associated with teenage fashion would transfer to a comic where she would actually have to have a personality etc. On the strength of this first issue I would say that the transition has been a mixed success.

I am genuinely pleased though to see a comic that I assume is primarily aimed at teenage girls, Emily herself is thirteen. Most of the stories contained within this first issue deal either with intense boredom [and how to cope with it] or a palatable form of a teenage Goth's preoccupation with death. So we have Emily in the graveyard, Emily in a taxidermist and so on. All of which is fun but seems a little pointless. I do not mean this as a criticism more of a statement of fact, It could well be that this is the intention. For example in one of the stories Emily has to head back to the clouds to fix her broken imagination. The concept is great, and the opening convincing, it's just that the initial promise is not sustained and the ending is a disappointing anti climax.

Those who feel a little like they just don't belong [in other words every living teenager] will be able to identify and possibly even empathise with Emily. Those of us who are a little older will struggle. The battle lines are drawn as early as the first page where Emily issues a call to arms, a proclamation to achieve extreme boredom. The rest of the comic offers variations on this theme.

I guess one of my other reservations is the simplistic dialogue. In many cases the language seems simplistic, trite and almost irrelevant. I concede that this may be in part due to the emphasis on the visual in this comic. It certainly reads like it could have been written by a thirteen year old. The problem is though is that the fact that the dialogue is weak detracts from the humour and the overall effect of the various stories contained in this comic. It is hardly surprising then that the story I find most satisfactory is the one that contains only 55 words, Grow'n Up? The yawning gap between the teenage Emily and the adult world is symbolically represented by the wayward growth of a plant. Emily's anger at the end gives this story a shape and decisiveness that is lacking elsewhere. The effective use of oblique angle and the frame where Emily's pupils are tiny skulls, these are two examples of just how visually impressive this comic can be.

There are some other very nice touches, the Guide to Extreme Boredom and Thirteen Other uses for Wire hangers will certainly appeal to the intended audience [that's if my twelve year old daughter is anything to go by]. But as Emily herself says, "What's the hurry?" and it this attitude that dominates the comic, in the end it is this feeling of ennui that overshadows the other aspects.

In a Word: Meandering.

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