By Jonathan Edwards
Ever since initially glimpsing the preview pages at the end of the last issue, I've been both excited for as well as a little apprehensive about this one. Why? Because, I knew going in that the first scene (or at the very least, one of the first scenes) would involve sexual assault. It's a very serious subject matter that can very easily be mishandled and used exploitatively, even when the creator doesn't intend it, simply by way of not being familiar enough with how to responsibly look at and talk about it. Now with that being said, how does Plastic #3 handle it? Well, first let me note that I am by no means an expert on this, so everything I'm saying should be taken with a grain of salt. Anyway, while I'm honestly not convinced that its inclusion was entirely necessary to tell this story, I do see why Wagner did it. Furthermore, I personally found something quite powerful about how Edwyn reacts to and talks about it throughout the issue. To me, it's the final proof that this book is earnestly exploring themes of love, good, and evil through a lens that is so commonly associated with the perversion of, or in some cases the outright disagreement with, those same themes. What we're ultimately left with is a story that's romantic in the same way that Palahniuk is romantic. And, I love it.
One thing I always try to do with my reviews is scale how specifically I talk about the actual plot relative to the score I give each issue. My general rule of thumb is if it's a 1 or a 2, I can go ahead and talk in depth about pretty much whatever I want so that it's clear why I felt it deserved a negative score. Conversely, with a 4 and especially a 5, I try to limit details, imply only enough of what happens to say something meaningful about it, and give my overall impressions of themes, characters, etc. (although, I do also give myself a pass to get more detailed on anything particularly noteworthy that happens in the first half of any given issue). Of course, this can be a bit problematic with books like Plastic that are just far enough out there to make the general summations feel like not a big enough endorsement. For example, in my review of last issue, I really wanted to talk about La Croix and how fucking strange but kind of brilliant his inclusion is. But, I didn't, because I wanted anyone reading my review beforehand to be able to experience it for themselves. Hell, I'm still very intentionally not actually saying what his deal is for more or less the same reason. The dynamic between him and Edwyn remains amazing, and it's only made better when the new character, Gwen, is added into the mix.
But, one of the biggest strengths of this issue is Belliveau. We get to spend a bit more time with him, and we really get a sense of how no-bullshit he is. He doesn't presume everything is going according to plan when they've yet to receive confirmation that it is. He doesn't disregard someone just because they're subordinate, when their higher-ups haven't been all that effective. He's more thana little annoyed with Thomas and Jim after seeing the consequences of them messing with Virginia in front of Edwyn. And, he's smart enough to recognize the likely future consequences that're still to come from that same instance of messing with Virginia. All of this makes him a particularly interesting antagonist for Edwyn. After all, Belliveau just had a job he wanted done, and he found what he thought would be an efficient way to do that. He just didn't know exactly what he was getting into or that his employees would underperform, and now he's attempting as much damage control as he can muster. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if this book ended with Belliveau being completely unharmed after simply returning Virginia to Edwyn.
Last time I gushed over the color theory I perceived surrounding the use of pink, and it's actually on display once more here. Although this time, it's on the subtler side: Gwen's hair is pink. I didn't realize it my first time through, but it hit me almost immediately during my second pass. So, I should probably explain why exactly I think that's a big deal (not that it's all that complicated a reason). Basically, it comes down to the fact that magenta and green are complimentary colors. In my review of the first issue, I referenced that the palette prioritized sickly greens (as well as a little bit of yellow). They easily coincided with the "sickness" of Edwyn's character and situation. Ginny, who I will remind you looked just like Virginia, and now Gwen both have had pink prominently related to their characters and all of their appearances so far. If that was as intentional a choice as I'm pretty sure that it was, then the color is serving to add a pretty hefty amount of subtext and possibly even supplying us with some foreshadowing of what's to come.
I know I've said it before, but I personally feel that the aforementioned depiction of sexual assault calls for one more reiteration. As much as I love this book for the unique worldview it presents, I recognize that it's really not for everyone. And, to anyone trepidatious to read due to the graphic content, honestly, you probably shouldn't. Look out for yourself first. But for everyone else, read this fucking book. I don't care if you wait for the trade in a few months, just give it a shot. Because, you're going to be hard-pressed to find another book that does the stuff Plastic does in the way that it does it.
Writer: Doug Wagner
Artist: Daniel Hillyard
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Keven Gardner
Publisher: Image Comics