In Karmen #1 from Image Comics, Catalina has done a very, very bad thing. But never fear, her new best friend, Karmen is on her way to sort everything out. Well, not really, because death is the end, isn’t it. But not before Catalina finds out some things that no one ever told her that death could bring. And what are those things? Find out in your next mighty Major Spoilers review!
Writer: Guillem March
Translation: Dan Christensen
Artist: Guillem March
Color Assistant: Tony Lopez
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: March 10th, 2021
Previously in Karmen: Little Catalina has always loved Xisco, the scamp. She has waited for him ever since they started school together. But now Xisco has found a new love, Catalina’s roommate in fact, and now he’s not taking her calls. As a result, Catalina does something she can’t ever take back, and to top it all off, it seems her guardian angel is about to step in and help usher her off the stage…forever!
DON’T LEAVE ME THIS WAY…
Karmen #1 is a delightful black comedy of love and suicide. It’s a Euro-comic, with all that that implies (a casual regard to sex and nudity, and an amoral take on love and death) which is often shocking and amusing in equal measure. It is a puzzling issue, that’s for sure, as you’re never quite sure what genre you’re in from page to page, but for all that, it is an entertaining read that rewards revisiting.
Told partially in flashback, Karmen #1 centers on Catalina, from her first day at school, to her last day on Earth. Along the way, we meet Xisco, a young boy who grows into a strapping lad and is clearly the object of Catalina’s affection. At first firm friends, in the opening pages of Karmen #1, Xisco has finally moved on to another woman, who, unsurprisingly, is Catalina’s housemate. Obviously sensing she is on the outer with Xisco, Catalina makes a terminal decision which invites the presence of Karmen.
Karmen may be Death. She’s certainly some sort of perverted guardian angel, a lovely head on a skeletal body who can’t be seen by anyone other than the target of her affections, in this case, Catalina’s soul/spirit. Catalina’s suicide is told with a mixture of affection and gross humor, most notably when Karmen asks her to get off the toilet so she can sit down and blow out a massive fart. You, umm, had to be there, I suppose.
I’m not sure whether it is the translation or not (kudos to Dan Christensen for his translation work here), but the narration and dialog in Karmen #1 has a tilted feel to it when read. It adds to the off-kilter atmosphere the visuals and characterization bring to the issue and curiously, helps making reading the issue easier, as there are a lot of word balloons filled with a lot of words. In fact, Karmen #1 is an exercise in wrong footing the reader. What starts out as a cute coming of age story, before morphing into a rapid souring one sided romance, becomes something much more sacred and profane by the end of the issue.
WINGS OF DESIRE
Writer Guillem March (Catwoman, Batman etc) does double duty as the artist in Karmen #1. I’m not sure how best to describe the art, other than to say that to look at it, you would automatically think it is European in origin. It doesn’t feel like anything an artist steeped in the American tradition would or could produce. There’s an emphasis on detail (check out the work March does in the bathroom setting – each tile is displayed, the threading on the towels can almost be counted, and you can see the grain in the wooden door) plus a willingness to display Catalina’s corpse in almost all its naked glory. It’s an open and frank style of artwork, willing to display the beauty of the human form juxtaposed against the ugliness (a rotting fish’s head, for example). The last few pages, where Catalina is roaming her home city and learns how to fly, are amongst some of the most beautiful artwork you will see all year.
BOTTOM LINE: COMPELLING
I’m not sure that Karmen #1 can be adequately categorized in any of the genres. It mixes and matches effortlessly. I suppose if I was forced to choose, it would be a mystery. What is happening and why? What is Karmen’s role in all of this? And what impact will Catalina’s death have on Xisco and her roommate? March has crafted a compelling story and a compelling opening issue.
Dear Spoilerite,At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. Producing, writing, recording, editing, and researching requires significant resources. We pay writers, podcast hosts, and other staff members who work tirelessly to provide you with insights into the comic book, gaming, and pop culture industries. Help us keep MajorSpoilers.com strong. Become a Patron (and our superhero) today.
Karmen #1 is difficult to describe, but is an entertaining read nonetheless. Karmen as a character is delightfully bonkers, turning Catalina’s situation into the blackest of black comedies, but also showing the kindest of reactions to her situation. This is a series to watch.