Circling: Life of Vice #2

Posted by on April 14th, 2010 at 5:30 AM

Rob reviews the second issue of Robin Enrico’s minicomics series, LIFE OF VICE.

In my review of the first issue of Robin Enrico’s series, LIFE OF VICE, I noted that a comic that hinted at all sorts of debauchery was surprisingly tame. Indeed, while there are certainly trappings of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas to be found in this comic, it’s really more of a quiet character study. A reporter from a Rolling Stone-type magazine is following around a sex advice-columnist who doubles as a rock star as she prepares to host an adult film awards show. The star, Becky Vice, manages to paradoxically present her life as an open book yet conceal the core of her essence.

Indeed, this comic is really an exercise in circling around anecdotes surrounding Vice in an effort to suss out her true character. This issue saw the Thompson trappings recede into the background a bit (other than pulling the wool over the eyes of a rube–though even that scene was more about providing him a memorable experience than purely exploiting him) and took on a more fluid sense of storytelling. Rather than the situation leading the characters, this issue saw the interaction between the main characters force the action (much of it outrageous) into the background.

That helped the issue transcend its influences and drift into a more organic experience for the reader. Enrico’s open-panel approach (a single large panel per page that opens into two or more scenes without the use of regular panel borders) complements the fluidity of the story itself. That open approach allows the pages to breathe while he simultaneously fills them full of attractive clutter. Enrico jams his pages with eye-pops: expressionistic flourishes inspired by video games, song lyrics, sex toys and other eye-catching images. The clutter works, as Enrico always makes sure that his protagonists are always drawn in a slightly thicker line than the rest of the comic.  As a result, the reader’s eye is always drawn to them on the page as they float from situation to situation.

The most interesting aspect of the comic was the way Enrico contrasted Vice’s genuine interest in sex as both outlet for pleasure and means of personal expression with the “manufactured and phony” adult video awards show. That seems to be the key to understanding Vice as a character: she’s an explorer who tests limits, but not in a cynical or prefab manner.  For her, sex is still an act between humans, not isolated body parts, even if it’s entirely casual.

Further clues along those lines were planted at the end of the issue, when Vice makes an inquiry about a certain ex-lover of hers and how the reporter might be able to help her.  My sense of Vice as a character is that she walks a fine line between abandoning her relationships due to boredom while experiencing the isolating feeling of loneliness.  I’ll be curious to see how Enrico draws these story threads together while continuing to revel in light-hearted perversion.

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