Skinned was a comic that had a pretty good first issue. I didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it. Skinned is also a comic that has a really good second issue. In this issue, princess Aldair selects street rat Buoy as her Life-Extra, which basically means “hired best friend.” He uses the opportunity to try and hack and take down the IRIS system which overlays virtual realities over everyone’s everyday lives. As IRIS crashes around them, Buoy and Aldair transport themselves to another location where things go from bad to worse.
The thing that really struck me about this issue of Skinned is how much I continue to dig the art. In the last issue, the art was capable and it drew me into the world. In this issue, there’s a lot of linework and clean design that brings to mind Mike Allred on his good days. I don’t know where Josh Gowdy came from, but he’s a welcome addition to the Monkeybrain line. My one complaint with it is that, while the scenes that are IRIS-influenced look very polished, the scenes outside of IRIS’ purview don’t look sufficiently dirty. There’s not enough contrast between the two to sell the difference between the idealized worlds people have created and the real world they ignore.
Holt and Daniel got a little caught up in their concept in the first issue, but this one gives them a lot of time to flex some character muscle. They’ve already laid out their framework for the world, and they have a lot of fun tweaking it and playing with it from scene to scene and even page to page. In this issue alone, there are call-outs to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Warriors, and the John Hughesian teenage comedies, including—but not limited to—Pretty in Pink and Say Anything. The direction they’ve chosen to take the comic is an inspired one, and I’m glad it’s the direction they chose; in a world where they’ve established that anyone can be anyone at the touch of a button, they’re allowing it to happen. Aldair and Buoy are still a little flat as characters, but they have goals and they strive to achieve them while wearing the skin of the popular culture that will help them get there.
The one thing this series lacks is an overarching tension. There are tense moments, and there are characters who make high-stakes choices, but at the end of the issue, it still feels like a fairy tale. It’s well-told, and it reaches into an examination of the way we perceive the world, but there’s a feeling that the world is going to right itself. These characters will win the day. I don’t know if it’s a side effect of the cleanliness of the art, or if it’s the archetypal nature of the characters, but it feels safe. On the other hand, if it’s intended to be a fairy tale, I’m not sure tension is what they’re going for. The point of a fairytale, according to Chesterton, isn’t to show children that there are dragons in the world, but rather to show us how those dragons can be defeated. My question here won’t be answered in this issue, but hopefully as the series progresses, Holt and Daniel will address it.
This was a step up for this series. These creators know what they’re doing and they’re playing a longer game than usual, given the format in which they’re working. And while it took me four months to catch up with this issue, I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next issue to drop.
Writers: Tim Daniel, Jeremy Holt Artist: Joshua Gowdy Publisher: MonkeyBrain Comics Price: $0.99 Release Date: 6/18/14 Format: Digital