Friday, April 08, 2005

PAUL POPE"S 100% (an appreciation)


So you’re looking for a book about love, fear, greed, sex, art, pugilism, voyeurism, one night stands, and a panty fixation? One that wraps all that up in sublime brushwork and subtle, interwoven tales of heartbreak and happiness? There is such a book. Look for it, filed on the shelf under P for Pope, Paul. Or maybe under T, for Totally Fucking Awesome.

100% is a terrific read; it moves with a Pamplona bull rush intensity of the best manga, and stops here and there to breathe in gorgeous little pit stops of Simple Pleasures. The performances are more real than most actual actors, and certainly more moving. Characters worry, and the anxiety makes you jitter. They fall in love, and your heart beats faster. They look at their toes while reminiscing, and you sigh with total sincerity. This is black and white melodrama in the best possible sense. It’s a big tasty mash-up of Love Comics, Philip K. Dick, RAGING BULL, and late afternoon Winter make-outs on Avenue B, with The Kinks playing on a turn-table and a girl that smells like lavender and tastes like Pad Thai. I can’t think of a recent comic more rife with evocative moments and characters that you want to stay with, long after they’ve wandered out of panel, off the page, and out into the world.

The stories are set in a New York that doesn’t exist, but might as well. It’s a Lower East Side story, filled with strippers and boxers and artists and dishwashers. People fall in love and reconcile, they create and destroy, and they look damn fabulous the whole time. It’s like a music video from a world without television.

Paul Pope’s stuff is always lovely to look at, but when his stories and art syncopate like they do here, it is a rare thing of beauty. It happens infrequently, although he seems to be hitting more than he misses lately. 100% is damn near a masterpiece, and his DC SOLO book was brilliant. (There nothing more exciting than watching an artist grow into himself, and if you get on board now, Paul Pope is on the move, getting better with every project and making kick-ass comics along the way.) Unlike HEAVY LIQUID, the sci-fi elements in 100% just dress the sets, and take a back seat to the human drama. It’s a nice match, as we learn about this strange future world through the eyes of fully realized characters who hurt and want and shut themselves away as much as anyone we know. These are real people, brought to life with line-work that moves like Degas and DeKoonig, all rolled up in sushi. Every page is incredible, and I could probably stare at each one all day. The layouts are suggestive and strange, but also perfectly clear and readable. It’s storytelling by way of elbows and lips and dark corners of dirty rooms. It draws you in and holds you tight, until the third act curtain draws.

While I can see his influences, and the pages bleed with a love of other books and art, the final mix is wholly original. No-one else is making comics quite like this. Truly original voices and styles are few and far between, and the excitement they generate when they do come along is so thick it fills the room. Pope manages to make you think of Rock songs more than Eisner, although both are sewn up with love between these panels. It’s everything that’s cool about being young, horny and in a big city, with weird Kirby-style computers to make it all even better.

Books like 100% are why we have comics. These stories are beautiful, and couldn’t be told any other way.

7 Love Letters:

Blogger Ed Cunard said...

Holy shit! Alex likes something! ALERT THE...

I kid. I'm convinced that anyone who doesn't thing 100% is pure awesome after reading it is somehow deficient.

6:42 PM

Blogger Ed Cunard said...

"Think." Fuck.

I'm obviously not pure awesome.

6:43 PM

Blogger alex said...

Cunard, you crazy nut!

I agree completely.

Someone liking 100% is a good litmus test as to their humanity. If they don't like it, they HAVE NO SOUL!

Evil robots are afoot...


6:51 PM

Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

I gotta agree. This book was pretty damn great.

11:17 PM

Anonymous Brad Curran said...

"it moves with a Pamplona bull rush intensity of the best manga..."

Now that's a turn of phrase. Anyway, after Solo, I'm up for more Pope, especially in this vein (since that "slice of life" story in Solo was the best thing in there).

6:14 PM

Blogger Johnny B said...

The only, and I repeat ONLY thing I didn't just go nuts over in regards to 100% was that the ending was a little too ambiguous and anticlimactic. But hey, that's life, right?

Otherwise, that was one of the best things I've read in decades. I'll never forget the teakettle symphony as long as I live.

8:13 AM

Blogger Joe Rice said...

I've lived in NY for almost a decade now and I don't think I've ever read anything that had a real-er NYC, fictional or not, than 100%. It was the NY that I know, even if it was in the future.

2:01 PM


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