This October, in the spirit of Halloween, I've been working through the Netflix collection of Mario Bava films. It's been fun experiencing that distinct era of storytelling, his films a combination of lovingly shot crumbling European architecture, beautiful long lashed women, and spontaneously nonsensical plots. Bava was a master of style over substance, a craftsman of trash so talented he made impossible to ignore his artistry amid the excess.
John Workman's 'The Adventures of Roma' shares a lot in common with this period of storytelling, and not simply in its retro-Euro aesthetic. It's spectacularly goofy and old-fashioned, full of contrivance and plot points that pop into existence whenever the author feels like it. Some of it might even make you laugh out loud, but despite this it still has a unique artistry to it, recapturing the tone and style of the past like an Italian Ditko drew it himself. Not for everybody, but catnip for me.
'Roma's incredibly thin plot involves a beautiful young woman, driven by nightmares to go searching for the source of her nightly torment, becoming entwined in a world of escaped convicts, hover cars, and coincidentally named robots. The writing is pure retro-schlock, so accurately capturing the mood of 60's and 70's science-fiction that you may start hearing mod theme music in your head while you read.
The art is similarly themed, the heroine classically illustrated with a massive head of 80's hair and a preference for either Apollina-esque spandex or glamorous nudity. Quite a bit of it is quite beautiful, with no frills of digital colors or zip-a-tone, relying completely on the simple forms and strong line-work of a now by-gone age of comic art. The art does have one very ugly habit, which is the re-use of panels or art elements, like the comic equivalent of reused animations in cheap 80's cartoon shows. A scene might have a few panels of emotional beat or a long dialogue segment, but rather than showing how the character's expression changes we instead get one panel of art re-cropped into a variety of close ups, the characters frozen in time. It's a choice at best resulting in unintentional humor and at worst removing the effect of the artwork and the script all-together, taking you out of the moment. It's an unfortunate choice that is the only real black eye on an otherwise pleasant book.
Maybe not a lot of other people would be as similarly amused with this lycra throwback, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable. It's weird and lacking self-seriousness but without the bitter tang of self-conscious irony. If you like peering back at different eras of media you might give this one a shot. It may be all style, but if you are like me you won't mind taking the break from substance.
Writer/Artist/Creator: John Workman Publisher: CO2 Comics Price: $29.99 - HC, $19.99 - TPB