Advance Review – Karmen #1 (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics
Creator: Guillem March
Colours: Guillem March & Tony Lopez
Release Date: 10th March 2021

Wow, ok, where to start on this one?

First up, I have to admit that I wasn’t aware that Karmen, being released in single issue format from Image starting next month, originally debuted as a graphic novel in Belgium from Dupuis. Secondly, whilst I was certainly aware of March’s work with DC, I’m far from what one would call well-acquainted. As such, Karmen was a novel treat to behold and a refreshing change of pace despite the often-weighty subject matter.

So, what is Karmen?

Perhaps the question is better phrased as who is Karmen? Angel? Death-aspect? Kindly shepherd of souls? The answer isn’t really covered fully in this opening issue; but then, it doesn’t need to be. Despite the eponymous character playing a heavy influence here, the story is more appropriately framed around the young woman Catalina. Bearing witness to socially pivotal events in her life through brief flashes, we end, or begin again, with her choice of suicide in a small bathroom in Palma de Mallorca.

And with that we find ourselves dealing with material that is harsh, gut-wrenching, and quite possibly very close to home for many. What is so engaging here is that we do not shy away from the impact. With punctuations of dark humour, March weaves an exploratory path through the metaphysical which never glamourises or sugar-coats. There might be some judgement sprinkled in there, but I didn’t find it condescending, more addressing our collective understanding of how we get there. Now, this might sound a bit highfalutin, and I’ll admit I thought we might be in for a bit of pretentious storytelling at first, but I was quickly won over with the arrival of Karmen and getting into the meat of it.

It’s hard to do justice to the story being told here. I could intentionally describe it badly as ‘ghost of a naked woman learns to fly and consider her life’s impact with the help of a skeletal angel’. With that said, it’s not too far from what we experience in each wonderfully illustrated panel. If the content I’ve described so far hasn’t already alerted you to the fact this is definitely not an ‘all-ages’ work, then the art further cements this. I don’t just mean by the fact that Catalina is naked, but also by certain events we witness as she undertakes her journey. It could have been easy to make the decision to clothe Catalina or more delicately hide her nakedness, but it’s an interesting visual reminder of the decisions she has made leading to this point. More adroit analysis than mine will no doubt be able to draw parallels or allegory here, but whilst there are no doubt clever touches throughout, Karmen never feels preachy.

Putting all of this together we have a strikingly beautiful and powerfully poignant piece. Hints at the larger story in play work their way into the closing pages of this large issue. With Catalina undergoing changes and the appearance of Karmen’s associates, I’m definitely up for more.

Rating: 4.5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster

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