You won’t figure Exquisite Corpse out until it’s too late. I know I didn’t, but I also know the exact page in which I figured it out. I know because I looked. The strange thing was that while reading the story I didn’t really know what it was about. I understood what was happening, but I knew there had to be something more than just interesting conversations between characters. What is the story about then right? Well we follow the life of Zoe, a young woman whose professional job is a booth babe. The agency she works for sends her to car shows, trade shows and basically she stands and has her picture taken with weird men (that doesn’t sound at all like anything we know right?). Her boyfriend is unemployed and basically a real shit. I’d say he’s a piece of shit, but he’s the entire shit. Just looking at the guy you know he sucks and that’s before he farts instead of saying “I love you.”
One day while eating lunch Zoe notices a man looking out his window at her and she gives him a smile. The man begins running to every other window to stare at her, but she catches him each time. In a strange move Zoe goes over to the apartment building and buzzes the man. He freaks out and mentions that the reporters have finally found him. At this point we know he’s a writer, but not much else. Once inside his place Zoe uses the bathroom… with the door open… which is funny and strangely cute.
After a stressful day at work Zoe finds herself over at the man’s place again and learns that his name is Thomas Rocher. She has no clue who that is, but they continue to see each other in this strange back and forth. Rocher begins writing again and Zoe finds an escape from her life that seems to be going nowhere.
There is a lot more to this story that I will obviously not be telling you. The great thing about creator Pénélope Bagieu’s writing is it doesn’t feel like any one genre. Different scenes leave you wondering what genre this story actually is. Much in the way it’s never clear what genre Rocher writes, there will be these interest moments that the story will lead you down just to turn you away. I loved it. I loved guessing and being wrong and starting again, all the while getting to know the characters and becoming wrapped up in their lives. That’s the major thing, you feel a part of their world because the story is that intimate.
I have hard time saying there are twists to this story. Twists gives the wrong impression of the material as a twist is usually trying to fool you. Instead you’re on this journey with Zoe and as she learns more about Rocher’s life, so do we. You don’t call new information about a friend a “plot twist” and so even though it technically is here, it doesn’t really feel like one.
The art is, and forgive me here, exquisite. I really mean that. I know it’s in the title, but I’m not trying to be funny. Bagieu’s style is wonderful. Being that she’s from France it definitely has a European style to it and personally I loved that. It looks like an animation with the style choices that Bagieu made. For instance Rocher wears glasses and sometimes his eyes show and other times they don’t. That’s a very animated choice. There are several choices like that in which there’s a lack of detail, but not really. It’s masterful with details Bagieu choses to illustrate and leave out. It gives her style a very clean look that I absolutely loved.
The coloring reminded me of something. I want to say Pink Panther if it had more color to it, but that’s not it. I can’t place it, but it works for the story. It keeps the linework very detailed, but adds personality to the artwork. Again it’s that balance of what details to add and which to leave out. The coloring never drowns the page out and is very subtle for the most part. Everything is kept soft and no one color pops from the page. I know the cover has a pop of red, but that’s not the case inside. All of the coloring is kept on the same range and better for it.
You’re probably wondering what genre I would classify this story and while it’s clear that there is one overall genre it fits better in, I think that Pénélope Bagieu actually achieved what the character in her book was trying to achieve and that’s blur the lines between genres. And it’s great because of it.
I do feel the need to point out that it’s not for you average comic reader. I would love to think that it was, but the average comic reader only reads superhero titles and that is not what this is. But if you really have an appreciation for the comic/graphic novel medium then definitely check out Exquisite Corpse and let it put a smile on your face.