I’m going to preface this review with an apology to the book’s creator, Jason Pittman. GIven the high volume of review submissions we get here at the BCP on an almost daily basis, occasionally one will slip through the cracks and fall off my radar. And sadly, that’s exactly what happened with Leftovers #4. Not a slight on the comic itself by any means, but more a damning indication of my need for some better organisations skills (sigh). Anyway, that’s how it came to pass that almost two months after Jason got in touch with us, I found myself stumbling across this issue nestled tantalizingly in my inbox. “Okay”, I said to myself “let’s see what this is all about”.
Having no experience of or access to the first three issues in this series actually didn’t turn out to be much of a handicap, given the fact that this issue serves as the beginning of a brand new three-part story arc. The story follows Kaleb, a regular enough guy who we discover has a fairly severe anxiety disorder that he is handling through medication. We dip into Kaleb’s life, hearing his stream of consciousness as he reflects upon the muffled, distant way the medication forces him to see the world. Moments come and go, and he tries his best to react to them accordingly, but the feeling of helplessness and insignificance threatens to swallow him up at any moment. Now, right away it’s apparent that what we have here – contrary to what the cover may suggest – is a detailed, intimate character study, rather than what appears to be a superhero-type story. Never judge a book by its cover, and all that.
However, at the same time that we’re being drawn into Kaleb’s life and his awkward, lonely interactions with both his girlfriend and his best friend, we also find ourselves presented with the ‘hook’ of this particular title. Now, ‘genius’ is a word I don’t tend to throw around too much, but Pittman’s decision to have the sense of safety and security that the medication provides Kaleb displayed visually by having a caped superhero shadowing his every move is – simply put – genius. And in a further stroke of inspired thinking, the hero is picked out in bright blues and yellows, serving as a jarring contrast to this otherwise black and white comic.
It’s a brilliantly chosen metaphor, and watching the silent hero – essentially Kaleb himself in a bright costume – watching over him as he trudges his way through his day to day life is a truly powerful storytelling device. We witness Kaleb’s insecurity and uncertainty about the medication growing gradually through some perfectly pitched, utterly believable conversations with his best friend Mike and girlfriend Addison, and watch this insecurity grow into a deeply paranoid realisation. Does he only ‘love’ his girlfriend because the medication is telling him to? Who is the ‘real’ Kaleb?
And see, as brilliantly executed as this comic has been to this point, here’s where it kicks into another gear. Because as Kaleb’s sense of doubt grows and grows, he starts being shadowed by another entirely separate costumed character. Blacks and reds replace blues and yellows as we get to see the darker side of Kaleb’s personality, and soon he finds himself shadowed by both characters, each competing for his attention and trying to influence his actions.
It’s a fantastic interpretation of the ‘Angel on one shoulder, Devil on the other’ cartoon trope, but played out before a backdrop of utterly convincing mental illness. And when Kaleb finally makes the decision to ditch the medication altogether, well… you’re going to have to read the comic yourself to find out.
I’m absolutely kicking myself right now, realising that this comic fell off my radar for almost two months. Over the last two years, I’ve read literally hundreds of small press comics, and I honestly can’t remember when one left as powerful an impression on me as this one did. The artwork is solid, the dialogue is great, but it’s the sheer genius (there’s that word again) of the overall concept that really got to me. Pick this comic up, I implore you. And I guarantee you that if I get the opportunity to take a look at issues five and six of this series, they won’t sit unattended in my inbox for two minutes, let alone two months.
Leftovers Book Four can be purchased online at indyplanet.com or http://leftoverscomic.storenvy.com. You can find out more about the series at the Leftovers Comic Facebook Page, and check out creator Jason Pittman’s DeviantArt page.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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