Showtime

Antoine Cossé
Breakdown Press
September 2017

This comic does such a good job of simulating the wanderings of an engrossed but unanchored mind that is back engineers the relaxation of sensory deprivation into your reading body. Your brain is tricked so thorgouhly into accepting the dream that it does some of the work of sleep. I don’t remember which nerd bullshit I was referring to when I wrote my initial review tweet–there’s just so much–but I recall the veracity, physical veracity, of the statement. 

Showtime, Breakdown Press, 2017

Though it interrogates existentialism and hype, reading this comic is a very gentle experience. It’s soft: soft lines, soft shading, soft pencil, soft great (watercolour?) texture, and very apt application of all so one never has to toil to interpret. Some pages–or alright, the entire comic–may demand or allow consideration of interpretation but there’s a difference between playing Where’s Wally and proofreading a document.

A rat who lives in an underground train station tells the reader a story about a magician from the perspective of a journalist driving to interview him. The journalist picks up three hitchhikers, who are sinister on and off. Journalist and hitchers exchange stories… within the narrative… about the narrator… of narrative… which is given by the narrator. Who of course also exists within the ultimate narrative. In and out and in and out, the rat comes back to reposition our focus. Our soft focus. This is a story often about murder and misdirection and orgies, a la Süskind, but it’s not confrontational and not challenging in the usual sense of “challenge.” Just a gentle hallucination. Barely sinister at all.

The portion of the comic given to Rat’s interludes are stagey, explicitly “a comic” as in “a narrative of sequential imagery” but the word explicitly becomes suspect when the visual cues used are specifically theatrical. But then theatre is perhaps the most overtly fake form of storytelling media, as casual language around it suggests– “stagey,” etc. Comics using theatre to acknowledge that they are comics –very interesting.

Showtime, Antoine Cossé, Breakdown Press, 2017

Looking at Showtime amongst Breakdown’s other books, it might hang between Cobb’s The Fever Closing and Stechshulte’s Generous Bosom, with Taylor’s Joyride orbiting all three. Fever Closing‘s incredibly dreamy, paranoid intensity is the autumn to Showtime‘s snowy winter. Generous Bosom‘s comparison is more pedestrian: there’s a lot of people in cars in the rain, a lot of mistrust (or mistrust that should be there flagged to the reader) in close proximity, and it’s really good.