Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu Review

Zoe’s life is much less glamorous than she thought it’d be. At 22, she’s a car show model, standing in front of expensive cars and getting her bum pinched by creeps before going back to her studio flat where her unemployed, weed-smoking asshole boyfriend gives her crap. Then one day by chance she catches the eye of Thomas, a wealthy, famous novelist, and the two begin a whirlwind romance. But why does Thomas never leave his fancy apartment?

Romance isn’t my bag but, from what little I’ve read of them, the French do it the best, and Exquisite Corpse is a pretty good romance comic. Though if I didn’t know the author was female, I’d say this was a male fantasy/wish fulfilment story: beautiful 22 year old girl with an hourglass figure falls for skinny and pasty middle-aged nerd? Hmm. Plus Thomas is basically rescuing Zoe from her crap life, sweeping her into his comfortable lifestyle while she lounges about, his muse/sex kitten. She’s a cute character but not exactly a role model for young girls.

Writer/artist Penelope Bagieu has the charming Gallic art style of many French cartoonists: melodramatic facial and body expressions, exaggerated gestures, lots of detail spent on clothes and surroundings, and the women are always drawn either as goddesses or trolls while the men are more or less bland figures. Bagieu uses the art as much as the script to tell her story and there’s a good balance between the two that leads to a quick reading experience because you get into the tale and it’s well presented.

It wasn’t an amazing story but it was fun for the most part – and then it all falls apart in the third act. Zoe’s “arc” turns out to be a pretty dismal one. She goes from independent but unhappy to dependent and happy to be used by someone to dependent and happy to be used by someone else. She learns that theft is right and apparently female sexuality is totally malleable – one minute a woman can be straight, the next they can be gay, they don’t mind!

Even with the ridiculous finale, Exquisite Corpse was enjoyable and though my suspension of disbelief was tested several times, I can’t say I was ever bored. But it is flawed, especially with regards the main character’s personality. It’s well-drawn and quite well written but plotted like a cheap and trashy romance novel that floats off into fantasy-land by the end - Exquisite Corpse is an even stupider version of Pretty Woman if you can believe that! It’s a light comic romp but definitely not a must-read.

Exquisite Corpse

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