Monday, 6 October 2014

Doomboy by Tony Sandoval Review

ID’s a teenage boy guitarist in a metal band but lately his life’s sucked. His girlfriend died and left a hole in his chest - literally! - and he doesn’t get along with his band anymore. Striking out on his own with a makeshift studio on the beach, his dog, and a friend to record his music, he decides to play his doom metal tributes to his fallen girl - as Doomboy! 

Doomboy is a comic that takes you back to being a teenager again, or at least it did to me. Back to a time when adults were near invisible, the future wasn’t even conceivable, all that mattered was the here and now, your first love - so intense you’ll believe it’ll never end and if it did it would destroy you - and glorious music, music, music! 

There’s not much of a story to this book: Doomboy plays his music anonymously, it gets picked up and broadcast over the radio, and he becomes a local celeb. The comic works fine when it’s just Doomboy and his music. There’s a kind of simple charm to that. 

And it has all the melodrama that only a teen could conjure up: Doomboy playing his doom metal on the beach, swirling clouds manifesting as Viking warriors battling in the sky, his beloved being carried away, lightning everywhere, wind whipping up Doomboy’s hair as he launches into another epic solo… And then of course there are his names - Doomboy. Could you get more perfectly emo? And ID, the Freudian term for the unorganized, instinctual part of a human’s personality, which suits most teenagers to a T. 

That stuff is surface level but a little sweet in its innocence, like the way Doomboy wears his heart on his sleeve. Where it really shows up its shortcomings is when it attempts to be a real book by introducing conventional story threads. Doomboy’s tough guy friend turns out to be a closet homosexual; Doomboy and his former band’s leader have a rivalry; none of this really matters or goes anywhere, it’s just thrown in as an afterthought. The book would’ve been more memorable and effective if it’d just been the story of a metal kid playing metal on the beach.

The art style is cool and quirky. Doomboy and numerous other characters are seemingly eyeless, their shaggy hair covering the top half of their faces, their arms are impossibly thin, their heads bulbous on a pencil neck, and so on. It’s not going for realism but a stylised, Gallic approach that’s interesting at least. But the style works when it comes to dramatic moments because the characters’ faces are really expressive when they need to be. And Sandoval really shines when it comes to drawing the elements - those stormy pages were fantastic, exactly like how metal albums look while reflecting the intensity of the music. 

Doomboy doesn’t fully draw the reader in and I was very aware that I was reading a comic the entire time. That said it’s well drawn, has its moments here and there, and it depicts teen angst well. Ultimately though its lack of substance makes it a light read that doesn’t leave much of an impression on the reader.


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