Saturday, June 18, 2005

F-Stop - What If the "Meet Cute" Is NOT Cute?

Today's "You Decide" is F-Stop, released in April by Oni Press (pick courtesy of FunkyGreenJerusalem.

This graphic novel, written by Antony Johnston with art by Matthew Loux is about a down-on-his-luck photographer who meets a model and accidentally has her convinced that he is a fashion photographer. He then lucks into a burgeoning career as a fashion photographer (with a unique "style") and all the ups and downs of achieving success in the fashion world, and what happens next.

First off, let me establish that this is an okay comic. Loux has a fun art style and Johnston has picked an interesting premise and I admire his dedication to romantic comedy in graphic novel form.

Beyond that, though, I really did not think very highly of this comic book.

I liked Loux's art, but a comment that a character makes about Chantel (the model) is well placed - there really is no indication that she IS a model. You would have no idea that she is supposed to be a model in the comic except that, well, the comic says she is a model.

She doesn't look any different from any of the other characters, like, at ALL.

In addition, and this is the main key, as I mention in the subject heading, there really is nothing all that cute or romantic about Nick (the photographer "hero") and Chantel's relationship.

We don't see them falling in love - that stuff is practically done totally off panel (and their first meeting is just at a bar...not all that clever). So when it comes to a big conflict with them later in the book, there is no emotional backbone in the story for us to CARE much - as they seem to be together just because they work together - not the deepest of relationships, ya know? Johnston did a much better job building a relationship with the characters in Three Days in Europe, and he managed to do that with the romantic couple being in much less scenes together.

In addition, much of Nick's character arc just made no sense. Here is a guy who apparently has very close friends, yet as soon as he becomes a successful photographer - he ignores them - FROM SUMMER TO SPRING!!

That just does not match up with the Nick that we meet early in the book, before he hits it big. He seems like a nice guy, but nice guys do not instantly ignore their friends for half a year when they become rich.

In addition, there is a scene with a veteran photographer where Johnston has Nick just get so angry so quickly and, well, so unbelievably.

It just does not ring true for me.

In any event, I like the basic concept, which is that Nick is a terrible fashion photographer, but the head of the fashion company decides unitarily that Nick's photos are artistically bad (a STATEMENT about norms) rather than just actually being bad photos. And when Nick wants to take GOOD photos, he is trapped in his earlier style.

However, even that is based in a big stretch, as Nick lies about his career as a fashion photographer to get the job. I would have preferred it if Nick just had said NOTHING, and let them all just ASSUME that he was a fashion photographer.

I did like the (formulaic, but well handled) resolution to the story, except for the whole "hey, we SHOULD start our own fashion company!" bit...that was quite silly. It did a good job tying together all the characters into a tense, but fun, challenge to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat. I liked that part.

But when the characterizations of major characters and the entire romance between the two leads BOTH fall flat to me, that is just too much of a drawback for the book to recover from, so I would have to say that I did not like this comic and would not recommend it to others.

I did like Loux's art well enough, and I admire Johnston's attempts at doing different things with graphic novels. I hope this misstep does not discourage him from this path, as I like this path a good deal.

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Blogger Manish Chakravarty said...

Comics are, and have always been a reflection of life. They are an escape from our true self into fantasies, but somewhere beneath the story of each comic lies the persona of the person who created it

6/19/2005 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I suppose, but I think some writers are a bit better than others at attempting to diversify the personality of the comic from their personality.

I think Johnston achieves that with this comic - I do not think Nick Stopard is like Johnston, for instance.

6/19/2005 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

I'd have to be in agreement. I guess it was a solid enough comic, but, like you said, I really didn't care.

The whole "bad pictures being thought to be great pictures" thing didn't sit too well with me. I've seen that same plot (or a variation of it) a million times, and usually better handled than this.

I'm a fan of Antony Johnston. I've loved a good bit of his work, and his previous romantic comedy "Three Days in Europe" ranks right up there near True Story Swear to God in terms of modern romantic comedy comics, but this one wasn't so great.

Still, the comics world needs Antony Johnston and I'll be reading his next graphic novel without a doubt.

6/19/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

It's an important point, Eliot.

Don't stop writing comics like this one, Antony Johnston!!!

Your unique style IS appreciated!

6/19/2005 05:45:00 PM  
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