Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: SHOPLIFTER (Graphic Novel)

PANTHEON BOOKS – @PantheonBooks

ISBN: 978-0-307-91173-5; hardcover (September 2, 2014)
96pp, 2-color, $19.95 U.S.

Pantheon Books recently published the hardcover original, Shoplifter, a new graphic novel from cartoonist and illustrator, Michael Cho.  This is a 2-color, hardcover book with the dimensions 5.80 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.60 (d), and it is Cho's debut graphic novel.  Shoplifter features some of the most beautifully-drawn comic book art that I have seen this year, if not in awhile.

Shoplifter focuses on Corrina Park.  She is a mid-20-something, college graduate who used to have big plans.  She studied English literature in college, and she imagined writing a hit novel and leading the idealized life of a beloved author.  Corrina thought that she would already have that or at least be close to achieving it.

Instead, Corrina lives in an unnamed big city that could be New York City or Toronto.  [Wherever it is, there are no black people to be seen... anywhere.]  She has been working at the same advertising agency where she began working five years ago after she graduated, and the only thing she has written is advertising copy.  Corrina knows that she should be writing fiction and that there should be more to life.  However, she does not know how to find the “more” that she should have.

In its writing, Shoplifter shows that it is a debut graphic novel.  Neither Corrina nor her situation in life are particularly interesting, and Cho doesn't seem to know how to grab the readers and make them care.  Shoplifter may be a generational thing, and I, your humble reviewer, am not a millennial.  Still, the malaise that besets Corrina is universal and is practically timeless; Cho writes this story as if he does not understand that.

On the other side of that:  Wow!  This book has some gorgeous art.  Cho's drawing style in Shoplifter recalls Dan Clowes, Adrian Tomine, and even the classic “New York slick” line of John Romita, Sr.  There is also a touch of Darwyn Cooke and of David Mazzuchelli's art for Batman: Year One.  The draftsmanship on the cityscape, exteriors, and backgrounds are practically flawless.  The tones (rose-colored) give the art texture and tangibleness; it brings the city to life.  The inking and toning delineates people and objects, but also connects everything in an intimate way.

If Michael Cho is interested, I'm sure there is some high-paying Batman hackwork in his future (script by DC Comics superstar Scott Snyder... or Geoff Johns).  Seriously, I am curious to see where this promising comic book and graphic novel talent is headed.  I complained about the storytelling and character writing, but the brilliant art makes this Shoplifter a must-have.  Comic book readers who appreciate comic book artists who can really draw will want to see Shoplifter.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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