Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 167 (7/20) -- Wet Moon, Book 4 by Ross Campbell

I knew Ross Campbell's work from Water Baby -- a book he did for DC's ill-fated Minx imprint a few years back, which I covered at the beginning of a comics round-up post -- but Wet Moon looks to be his central and most popular series, coming regularly from Oni since 2004, with five collections to date.

I've only seen one of those collections so far: this one, #4, with the ominous (and unearned) subtitle "Drowned in Evil," which was published in 2008 and collects issues 17-21 of the comic. This book has no introduction, and the only description on the back cover is a jokey quote from Campbell himself -- "This one's the best volume yet!" There is a page of character headshots with their names and ages...after the end of the story. And there's nothing else to bring a reader into the book -- I can't remember the last time I saw something this reader-hostile. If a new reader does dare to pick this up, though, it's reasonably clear what's going on -- this is yet another story about college students (mostly) that focuses on their interpersonal travails and drama.

Most of the cast -- which circles around roommates Cleo Lovedrop and Mara Zuzanny -- are students at Wet Moon Art College, in the fictional Southern city of the same name. Wet Moon -- at least in these issues -- doesn't venture into or anywhere near the classroom; these issues take place over the two weeks around Halloween, but no one goes to class or mentions school or homework once. Their personal lives are far too complicated for that, I guess; Wet Moon is primarily about their tentative love affairs, and equally tentative forays into work and the rest of life. (For multiple-pierced tough-acting girls, these are a bunch of softies.)

Campbell is good at getting into their heads -- and not just through the expressions in his nearly manga-sized limpid eyes, since we also get diary entries from three of these young women to wallow into their emotional turmoil in more depth. (Campbell is excellent at capturing that aimless, restless yearning of late adolescence -- perhaps too much so for readers whose own adolescence is a distant memory.) Refreshingly, the cast is almost entirely young women, and they come in various body shapes, sizes and races -- though they're all vaguely shabby, dressed in raggedy cut-offs and torn layers of ill-treated shirts.

I bet that there's a small but passionate Wet Moon fandom, made up of women (and some men) whose lives are very much like this, and the men (and some women) who are strongly attracted to that type of young aimlessness. But these issues only hint at a larger plot, and quotidian details can only sustain an ongoing series for so long -- I'd have preferred to see these girls working on something they cared about, whether it be school or their 'zines or some cause; they come across as more distracted and frivolous than Campbell intended. Of course, they're still young -- they have plenty of time to grow out of it!
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: CocoRosie - Lemonade
via FoxyTunes

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