Snap Flash Hustle #1
Jim Campbell (letterer), Emily Pearson (artist), Pat Shand (writer)
December 5, 2018
Snap Flash Hustle is pure josei, the josei-est American comic book I’ve had the catharsis to read.
It takes monetising your image and your sexuality for granted as an aspect of life for its women, and it looks at romantic, sexual, and domestic relationships without an assumption of male-female-couple-done. It’s soft-looking, all pastels (it’s really pink) and incomplete, sometimes translucent, dry-brushy outlines. It looks like an American comic, and it reads like an American comic, but it comes from and delivers to all the places that the romantic, hopeless, hopeful, queer, horny, ennui-laden josei greats dwell in. For/about women who feel worthless and arrogant at the same time, women who are able to embrace cruelty and self-gratification, women who are willing to bargain their way out of desperation they contributed to. It’s a story-world of women where we don’t care to think about feminism, for good or for ill. It provides an ideological rest stop in a complicated station.
Haley Mori is a model in the same way I’m a writer: she does it all the time compulsively, and she occasionally gets paid. By the end of issue #1 she’s got a second job to support her modelling gig, a job that uses her modelling as a front for crime but which will allow her the validation of being brought into a successful modelling ring. It’s a fascinating devil’s handshake. She wants to support her family (her husband and their girlfriend) and get out of her secret debt, so she agrees to extralegal activities, but she isn’t offered this choice—she actually asks for it, because she wants to be a part of the model world that runs the drugs.
Haley’s motivation throughout is centred upon being a desirable model. She’s not shallow, or stupid, or even visually bimbo-coded like Helter Skelter’s Liliko. She has a face to take seriously and that’s often serious. She has a cool-girl blunt bob styled in soft waves. She has a nose ring. Her need to be successful, her field of choice, and her willingness to take dangerous shortcuts aren’t made anything other than motivation and opportunity, and as they’re motivations and opportunities that exist for many people the comic feels present and true. When a gun comes out and Haley’s clearly made a dangerous mistake it’s as confusing and sudden for the reader as it is for her because the preceding scenes are so everyday, so likely.
At issue’s end, Haley has several established plot threads to weave through. Her husband doesn’t know why she missed his play. Her girlfriend wants to use her as an entry into modelling, and she’s uncomfortable with that, which they don’t discuss. She’s got a new job trafficking drugs, which takes a mental backseat to her cleared debt and upcoming creative success. She’s in business with a manipulative woman who verbally controls her crime team and aims to take creative control of the group’s shoot concepts.
Haley is living in a pink-hued (w-wait—could we call that rose tinted?) dream moment with her wheelie bag and her tall latte-or-whatever and her plaid shirt slipping casually off one shoulder as she strolls down the empty street, a pitch-perfect, spot-on vision of “I bet the model/influencer life is so great, all the time.” Shand did a great job scripting, but Pearson’s page choices are the dime on which the book could turn. Just gauzy enough to imply respectful distance, but never idealised beyond contextual reality. It’s full of facial nuance and body language, fashion choices mostly not given enough centring pause to really revel in, but which are entirely accurate and believable on their visually professional characters.
Snap Flash Hustle #2 is on shelves and digital platforms on the sixth of February. The first issue is waiting for you now. I don’t know if I’m as interested in the organised crime plot as I am in the slice of life elements, but we’ve talked about the need for josei themes in the American monthlies market before, usually in response to Snotgirl (the previous Black Mask title There’s Nothing There, also shared some themes). Snap Flash Hustle looks to be a much-needed addition to the How To example list.