Nia lives a life filled with fear. Guy just wants someone to talk to. Both share the lonely desperation of pain. How closely they are connected by this feeling is something neither of them expected.
TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
One the first panel of The Pain Vol. 1 we meet Nia. Nia lives in a world coloured entirely with baby blue. Nia lives in a world of dread. A threatening text message demands her return home and we quickly learn that Nia is in a classic abusive relationship – although, to be nitpicky, it’s unclear whether that relationship is with a boyfriend, a father, an uncle? We see that the man’s behaviour is brought on by drink as Nia lets herself into the building.
Really quick, we jump over to a new page and a new panel of The Pain Vol. 1 where we meet Guy. Guy lives in a world coloured entirely with mint green. Guy lives in a world of low self-confidence. He is at a bar down the street from Nia and her predicament where he is unable to drum up the gusto to speak with an attractive woman. With nothing else to do and full of self-loathing he leaves the bar and takes to the city streets.
Meanwhile, Nia’s attempts to sneak in are thwarted by a creaky step and she is struck for her negligence. Out on the street Guy finds that his face stings as if he had been struck by an invisible assassin. His lip is bleeding. Nia and her bloody lip smash a bottle (and don’t do anything else with it?), and flee her apartment building. In her rage, in the safety of the street she punches a brick wall. Have you guessed it yet? Guy finds his own hand throbbing in pain and begins to wonder what is wrong with him?
Following a second text demanding that Nia return home she flings her cell phone away into the night and kicks a lamppost in a fit of rage. Whilst nursing his injured foot Guy notices a cell phone lying not that far off. This leads his eye line to Nia where he notes her twin injuries to his. Nia makes a similar observation of Guy and our protagonists have finally met by the end of the issue.
While I’m not certain that I love the idea of abuse (spousal or otherwise), and low self-worth as framing devices I do think Troy Becker has made an interesting play on the destined-to-be-together-star-crossed-lovers trope. It was cute to watch the physical pain Nia endured manifest in Guy’s world the way emotional pain is shared between a couple in a relationship. Part of me is stuck between thinking Becker wrote that for shock value and part of me thinks it’s a bit clever.
MAYBE TOO SIMPLE
In addition to providing the story and everything else in The Pain Vol. 1 Tory Becker also drew and coloured the entire thing … and he’s not much of an artist. True the style is very simple and having Nia and Guy inhabit worlds bathed in entirely unique colours is a neat (if not particularly original), idea, but the art falls short after that point of merit.
I tend to think that with indie books of any caliber there is no such thing as too simple. This is a medium that lends itself to sparse lines and – often – no colour at all. However, in The Pain Vol. 1 the characters and world look as though they were thrown together in MICROSOFT PAINT. It’s not simple in a way that speaks to style and choice, it’s simple in a way that suggest Becker may have been playing in a bigger park than he was suited to.
At $0.99 it’s difficult for me to suggest skipping an issue and I do think the physical manifestation of Nia and Guy’s link is neat, but that might be it. Neat … and that’s not necessarily enough to merit reading anything.