Commerical Dystopian Nightmare

Difficult Loves (Domino Books): Molly Colleen O’Connell brings an almost expressionistic style to her sketchy, slightly uncontrolled lines, with plump figures looking vaguely like the Venus of Willendorf, or something you might find scrawled in futuristic cave drawings. The panel composition is very ornate; for example, the first time you see a bevy of snakes they’re almost slithering out of the panel borders with writhing detail. Much of the story centers on “Trollhatan,” which is billed as an erotic city that has crude phallic monolithic structures. The nature of the city is a little obtuse perhaps, but the setting still entices with curiosity. From the perspective of thematic interpretation, it’s interesting that perception in this world is always slightly off. From that we can extrapolate that context = perception, meaning that our surroundings can shape our mindset. Difficult Loves and the characters that inhabit the story feel like they’re longing and fleeting, it’s a stream of consciousness style of storytelling vs. the straight linear narrative that most audiences might be comforted by. The increased size does help the reader parse the art though. What I found most curious was the two blue and pink one-page inserts that seemed to be examples of the structures the snake protagonists are navigating. The insertion of these objects is treated almost as if they are precious idols to behold. At the mid-point of the book, there’s a wistful page that’s simply amazing. It’s “A+” work on its own, with a lady being prepped for burial. “Never had someone scrubbed my skin with salt and almond oils, brushed my lips with berries, and perfumed my pubic hair with jasmine oil.” It’s an exquisite blend of copy full of coy mystery and tactile eroticism, with (what I think are) ink washes and Eastern design flair, making for an abrupt aesthetic change that juxtaposes death with sensuality. Additionally, there are some shorts like Erotic Pots and the Strip Mall experience full of nightmarish shops from a commercial dystopia, with names like “Alien Greeting Cards” and “TVs & Tube Tops.” It’s a nice bit of commentary on what fascinating unofficial talismans and totems say about the society that covets them. Grade A-.


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