Fear & Loathing: Life of Vice #1

Posted by on January 6th, 2010 at 5:55 AM

Rob reviews Robin Enrico’s new minicomic, LIFE OF VICE #1.

Robin Enrico has never been vague in detailing what inspired each of his comics, nor has he been evasive in coming to terms with needing to go in a new direction at times. Taking a break from his impressively hyper-stylized rock ‘n roll fable JAM IN THE BAND, Enrico decided to channel his inner Hunter S. Thompson (among other influences) with a side project called LIFE OF VICE. It’s structured as an interview between a Rolling Stone-esque gonzo reporter and Becky Vice, an infamous sex advice columnist and bass player. Vice was one of many interesting secondary characters in JAM IN THE BAND, and Enrico wanted to take the opportunity to explore a character who was in no way modeled on his own life or struggles.

Indeed, Vice’s defining characteristic is her unapologetic hedonism. She’s a sensualist and thrill-seeker through and through, taking special delight in making the squares uncomfortable with her frank discussion of sex. A classic “PK” (Preacher’s Kid), Vice started to follow her instincts and aesthetics, leading her into a life of performance. Enrico hints that he views Vice’s entire life as a sort of provocation, a kind of non-stop bit of performance art. When he has the reporter wonder out loud if Vice was immoral or amoral, it felt a bit strange because it seemed to imply that the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake was somehow inherently immoral. That may well be true from someone coming from a strictly religious framework, but it was a bit odd for the liberated & hip reporter to espouse such an opinion. Perhaps a more pertinent question might be what Vice’s hedonism does for her ability to create lasting and meaningful connections with others. She cited boredom as the reason why she does all the things she does, but Enrico implies that sating that boredom may have its own price.

Working with each page as a single panel, Enrico has created his best-looking comic to date. The video-game stylization of his characters never lent itself to fluid panel-to-panel transitions, so using an open page gave him a chance to lead the reader’s eye around the page in a more organic fashion. It also allowed him to flip between present events and flashbacks with great ease, sometimes melding the two together on the page. The stylization of his art also allowed him room for expressionism–like a shot of the duo in a pillow fight when the “girl talk” began. Despite all of the Thompson references, nothing much actually happens in this issue that’s all that shocking, other than Vice horrifying a diner’s worth of uptight patrons. It’ll be interested to see how Enrico combines the madness of a Thompson narrative with the more pleasantly discursive tone of the first issue. This work may not be as ambitious as JAM IN THE BAND, but the tighter character focus combined with a wider cultural sweep have made this Enrico’s most interesting project to date.

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