By Wes Jones
Eric Kostiuk Williams’ Condo Heartbreak Disco is a superhero book that feels very little like a superhero book. We’re introduced to our amorphous, genderfluid, ancient deity heroes Komio and The Willendorf Braid in a near-future Toronto. The bizarre couple attempts to save their city from very real and timely villainous forces: gentrification, unaffordable housing, and an increasing class divide.
Blank-faced, spirit of vengeance, Komio (think a less grotesque Silent Hill nurse with Plastic Man powers) and inspiration for the Venus of Willendorf statue, The Willendorf Braid (a pair of legs topped with a ball of braided hair), are fantastically strange but completely relatable protagonists. In order to better understand the sensibilities of the modern populace, Komio and The Braid take up residence in the increasingly trendy Parkdale neighborhood of Toronto. Sharing an apartment with a community organizer named Jane and forced to make rent, Komio turns to outlets such as Craigslist to promote their vengeance-for-hire services. Meanwhile, The Braid finds that their skills as a kind-of spirit of personal guidance are far less desirable than they once were.
Residents are faced with accelerated “renovations” of Parkdale, increasing rent, and dwindling affordable housing. Facing eviction, our heroes set out to find the source of the gentrification wave and save their neighbors from a dystopic, capitalistic endgame that would leave the world full of uninhabited upscale homes that very few have the means to afford.
Williams presents us with a dreamlike Toronto, utilizing a psychedelic, surreal pen-and-ink art style reminiscent of punk fanzines from the ‘80s and ‘90s. The bold lines and crosshatching used for shading do a fine job of adding depth and complexity without looking messy. Overall the book is truly visually intriguing, incorporating clever panel transitions and elements of absurdity to strengthen the surreal vibe. Komio is especially engrossing as their form is constantly changing. My only criticism being that due to abrupt scene changes and flashbacks combined with the fluid style, the story’s continuity can at times be unclear.
Condo Heartbreak Disco is an atypical social critique that is genuinely relatable despite its outrageous characters and setting. While Toronto's plight may be a bit exaggerated, it can feel all too familiar to residents of nearly any metropolitan area in North America. Cities such as San Francisco have become impossible to afford for anyone except the extremely wealthy due to speculative property investments. If you're one of the masses resisting invading hordes of affluent assholes or even if you live in a rural area, the theme of helplessness and insecurity in the face of the never-ending march of “progress” is something that resonates with anyone in the 21st century.
Condo Heartbreak Disco
Writer/Artist: Eric Kostiuk Williams
Publisher: Koyama Press