By Dustin Cabeal
Skinned received a beautiful hardcover recently from Insight Comics, and they were kind enough to send me a copy for review. It sat on my desk in a sea of reviews just waiting for me to get to it. Originally when I saw the art and read about the series, during its digital premiere, I was curious about the concept since it seemed to take a note from Non-Player, but unlike that series, it actually concluded and didn’t take a bunch of people’s money for a long ride.
Unfortunately, the story gets lost in this concept, over and over again. It’s set in the future and yet has a ruling Queen and King. There are ample technology and everyone sports contacts that plug them into the system known as Iris. Which is also a little on the nose, but you’re hit with the name over and over to the point that you might even miss that obvious connection. I’ll fully admit that it wasn’t until I typed it that it dawned on me.
After ushering in the birth of a new child, the focus quickly switches to Aldair. She’s set to be married and is totally against her baby sister being given contacts at birth. She sounds more like a parent than the fucking parents do, that’s for sure. After that, we’re spun out into the real world and meet our street rat, sorry, poor bored guy. His name is Buoy. He’s constantly referred to as “boy,” which at first I took in a derogatory sense, but Buoy is quick to correct everyone with the proper pronunciation of his name. Which was either a joke that I didn’t get or they really were just fucking up his name, and he was correcting them, either way, it seemed more like a joke that doesn’t quite work in print.
Buoy Boy, as he’s commonly called, gets picked with his friend to be a servant to the princess before her wedding. This part doesn’t make any sense because it’s a short-term job and almost seemed like husband practice or something. The scene serves as an introduction between Aldair and Buoy. The system cuts out, and they get to see each other without all the optics going on, and they instantly fall for each other. Love is blind my ass because they were the only two good looking people in the room when the shit hit the fan. Their love isn’t meant to be, and there’s a lot more going on in this future castle than meets the eye.
The artwork from Gowdy steals the show, especially in this hardcover format. The title explains everything in that the “skin” of the world is constantly changing. What doesn’t 100% ring through is if everyone sees the same thing or if they’re just able to detect what others are seeing and control their own appearance to a degree. What this means for the art is that everything is constantly shifting. The characters are dressed and look one way in a panel, and then it can be completely different in the next panel. There’s plenty of movie genre references spread throughout the story, but then just a bevy of different designs. It had to be a nightmare and yet great fun to constantly shift the character designs.
The thing is, the shifting artwork conceals the stories weakness, in that it’s a very hollow story. In fact, I could sum it up as a Snow White esc story in which the daughter of the true queen must free the mirror and save the world. Because at the end of the day, that’s all that’s happening and once you figure that out you’re just waiting to get there. The story takes the long way for the journey. There are also several moments in which it feels as if it’s going to go in a different direction and gives this potential offshoot story, but then finds it’s way back to the main storyline. The love story is superficial at best. Aldair and Buoy see each other for a moment, fall in love and will do anything to be together. Their love spans all of a day. It’s also a little Aladdin feeling with the poor boy, princess angle, but that’s soon dropped when Aldair’s true task is revealed. There isn’t much action or danger. We’re told of the danger, we’re shown the aftermath of the action, but there is never a sense of either. Aldair gets lost in a sea of people and is easily found by three different parties. Granted, one of those times Iris helps, but it was a bit convenient how quickly it all happened.
It’s not a bad read and its worth it just for the artwork. Gowdy is amazing in how each character is easily recognized even with all the shifting changes. The characters could have easily been lost in the artwork. The concept of the world is interesting, but the depth of the story is shallow and nothing new. If it was brilliantly told that wouldn’t matter, but it feels rushed. It also feels as if the art was more important than getting any depth out of the world, which is just a shame.