Someone wiser than me once told me that picking on a strawman does nothing because strawmen don't feel. I've thought a lot about that and no matter how close humanity gets to resembling a gaggle of scarecrows in cosplay screaming to be taken seriously, the statement still applies. To bag on a strawman is to scream at a brick wall; to rant and rave and hate and scream at something that will never listen because it's beyond reason. It's something I grew out of, and while I feel as though I share some of the anger with the creators of Thin, I'm not sure they understand what little good screaming at people who don't listen does. As always, because I'm a hopeless romantic who wants to love new ideas and fresh intellectual property, I find that I want to like Thin. The problem this time is that is doesn't want to be liked. It's pissed off. If a work of art can bear the soul of the creator, then this story seeks to wail on a bloated, aging woman who stuffs her face full of fast food, hides fast-food garbage from her husband and just can't seem to understand why she hasn't dropped the weight. I was actually surprised to find out that we were supposed to sympathize with this character when, half-way in, we follow her journey to a crazed scientist's house hoping to undergo a sort of ultra-liposuction and she begins weeping at his doorstep.
It's genuinely an odd occurrence, as if a writer were to spend the first half of his book crafting an angry racist teenager who's planning to shoot up his school, building tension toward the moment that people in the school are going to be killed, only to give him a soliloquy about how his mother never loved him. Yes, the idea of an overall distasteful person having human emotions isn't impossible, but creating a moment of audience empathy for a character who's only been characterized as detestable creates a schizophrenic tone.
Two-thirds of the way into Thin, we find that instead of a Bobcat Goldthwait's 'God Bless America' style of venom-spewing tantrum against society at large, Thin is being played up as a classic horror story centered around a monster rather than a character or group of characters. I think I would have almost preferred the tantrum story by the time we got there, as it meant Thin #1 would have had a more consistent whole by the time it was over. Plus 'God Bless America' was really good and perhaps the writer could have turned the quality around by the end; but hey, review the comic you got, not the comic you want.
At the end of Thin's first issue, the story seems to center directly around a woman's conflict with a monster rather than a woman's conflict with her weight issues. Which is fine but it means that Thin will have to be judged as a whole rather than issue by issue. I don't know how I'm supposed to judge it, as a soap-box rant about America's obesity problem or as a horror story. As a horror story, plain and simple, there's not enough of it yet. The monster, unlike my recently reviewed favorite Croak, does not distinguish itself in any way from the monsters that have preceded it. Plenty of horror stories have done the 'crawling inside living flesh' type of monster before, I'd personally liked to have seen more of the monster before being forced to judge it.
As a testimonial against the growing obesity problem, it's thin and undernourished, ironically. I get it. Don't get me wrong, Jon Clark, I'm right there with you. I'm dieting right now to avoid the very habits and aesthetics displayed by our main character, but there are two ways to characterize a character: sympathetic and lacking immediate sympathetic qualities. That's not 'unsympathetic', that's merely 'not attempting to be a protagonist. Having a character chow down on fried chicken while singing Meghan Trainor lacking even the slightest hint of self-awareness, however, paints the picture of a person we're supposed to view from a detached standpoint, if not with anger than with the observation that comes with reading a character study or a good documentary, taking notes and making judgements. Mixing these qualities with an extremely dramatic monologue at a stranger's door, something that signals the audience to empathy, creates tone disparity.
If our lead character is deeply aware of how her weight problem has affected her life in negative ways, why does the story begin with gormless snacking and singing along with a song that represents body positivity? Why does our character seem to embrace her situation with both happy acceptance and horrible dread? How are we supposed to relate to a character's emotions when neither the character understands them, nor seems to conform to her own emotions?
I've been bagging on a comic a lot for something I'm giving a three out of five. The art is fine, if unclear. It's a style these days, not one that I'm overly fond of, but in terms of super abstract art that seems to frequently go off-model in order to better convey dreariness and a sense of inconsistency and woe, I've seen much much worse. The story could be good with time, aside from that major bump in the beginning, it paces itself well and opens itself up to interesting possibilities.
This isn't an endorsement to buy Thin #1. I wouldn't recommend it. I would, however, recommend checking in on some reviews for issue 2. Perhaps the second issue will make the first issue retroactively more enjoyable or worth reading. It's actually very possible, I just hope that the Mr. Clark decides a tone by then. It looks like he has.
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Thin #1 Writer: Jon Clark Artist: Jon Clark Publisher: American Gothic Press Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital