Pinfalls: Life of Vice #3

Posted by on November 8th, 2010 at 5:08 AM

Rob reviews the third and final issue of Robin Enrico’s minicomics series, Life of Vice.

The first two issues of Robin Enrico’s Life Of Vice centered on its title character (sex columnist/bass player Becky Vice) as a provocateur, performer and hedonist.  Told through the structure of a Rolling Stone-style reporter accompanying her on adventures, the series is an attempt to reconcile that non-stop pleasure-seeking with fulfilling one’s emotional needs.  Throughout the series, Enrico slowly peeled back the layers from Vice’s persona, revealing a surprisingly vulnerable and lonely person who nonetheless knows exactly what she wants and needs.  The big revelation of this issue is that despite her take-no-prisoners revelry and disinterest in monogamy, she shows a surprising amount of restraint and respect when she sees the love of her life once again and discovers that he’s engaged.

Of course, this message is cleverly relayed through several layers of “noise” on the page.  Enrico once again uses an open-page layout that eschews a traditional panel grid.  Instead, images flow into each other, guided by video-game style arrows and prompts (the best being a REW ^^ being inserted for a quick flashback).  Enrico loves layering words for decorative, dissonant and immersive purposes.  When Becky and her fiance (pro wrestler Lone Wolf) speak in his locker room before a big fight, the conversation is light and casual.  However, the block-print lettering reveals her true, frantic desires to have sex with him.  Despite that urge, she resists trying to seduce him.  That same block print is used to convey song lyrics blasting on the radio, the patter from a ringside announcer and other ambient sounds that help Enrico create atmosphere.  Larger block print is used as sound effects fodder or to convey exclamatory speech, but it always adds something to the comic’s overall aesthetic.

Video games are Enrico’s most dominant influence as an artist and storyteller.  It informs the way each page is a sort of screen that the reader’s eye must interact with, much like a player interacts with a game.  The simplicity of his rendering style is an advantage to the reader, given the amount of detail, clutter and eye pops Enrico likes to pack into every page.  He keeps the reader’s eye on his characters by giving them a thicker line (not unlike seeing video game characters glow).  The way his characters interact has the same appealing stiffness of video game characters, but because they are so thoroughly integrated with the rest of his aesthetic, they seem perfectly natural.  (If you took out the backgrounds, block text and other decorative devices that Enrico uses and just left the characters, his comics would look dead on the page.)

That said, the biggest influence on Enrico’s work in terms of comics is Jaime Hernandez.  It’s all there: the exploration of certain niche cultural scenes, the doomed romances, the emphasis on friendships (this was the final takeaway from this issue, that Vice values friendships more than sensual experiences), the big & cluttered party scenes, and even the way bodies interact and melodrama is blown up through professional wrestling scenes.  Fusing that emphasis on small moments that can explode into emotional meltdowns at the drop of a hat with that hyperkinetic video game aesthetic is what gives Enrico his own style and voice.  This series seems to have been the perfect opportunity to write characters who aren’t just stand-ins while continuing to explore and hone his visual style.  Hopefully he’ll keep using that open-page format; it seems to suit the sort of storyteller he’s become, embracing all of his influences and finding ways to take them a step further.

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