I have to admit: I’m torn about Change. On the one hand, it is the sort of comic I wish I could get my hands on more often: goofy, horrific, willing to throw anything and everything at the wall just to see what would stick. On the other…well…it’s nonsensical crap. Not a very ‘critic’ sentence to write, but that is what it is. So much of it is dedicated to its gleeful attempt to mindscrew readers that it never becomes about anything else, despite what a final, emotional plea over a white background would have you believe.
Morgan Jeske gives it a nice sheen. Off-kilter split-screen images, micro-breakdowns to suggest movement within an image, numerical panels, a sixteen-panel grid depicting fire sparked in a darkened cavern, character designs equal parts Moebius and Frank Quitely; there is not a single page in this comic that isn’t worth looking at. But “looking at” is all it comes down to. For all his virtuoso layouts and references to his various influences, Jeske is showing off the artist he can be (and likely will become), rather than making distinctive, soulful Pop. Even the elements which threaten to form an emotional spine for the mini-series, a man discussing his lost love, seem disconnected. The man, a writer naturally, relates his relationship to his dead girlfriend to that between his parents, and has a tumor in the form of another man coming out the back of his skull. While it’s a better depiction of writing, as a process and as an expression, than other comics on the subject have been, Change remains oddly static, lacking insight or urgency.
A good chunk of this problem may lie with Change‘s script. Ales Kot’s plotting is a long string of “and then this happened,” piling on visual moments without any narrative or thematic coherence. The big questions Kot peddles to readers–life, death, politics, love, privacy–accumulate much the same way guest appearances in cape comics do, and in much the same childish mentality: throw in a spaceman, throw in a farting Cthulhu, throw in a drone suddenly springing to life, throw in an alligator in a tuxedo, just keep throwing things at readers and hope they’re impressed. Change isn’t the countercultural grab bag of Tank Girl or J. O’Barr’s emotional bloodletting in The Crow (a flashback to rapper W-2 proposing to his now-vanished wife and the series’ opening page evokes that series’ hallucinatory flashbacks). Nor is it Brandon Graham’s thoughtful examinations of culture (Prophet, a subversion of Tom Swift/John Carter; Multiple Warheads, a celebration of postmodernism’s embrace of all art). Change is what happens when someone only takes away that Euro comix are “weird.” There’s the same problem found in much of Grant Morrison’s current work (Happy, Action Comics) of acknowledging the world outside its bubble, but wanting to push it aside. By the time Kot gets around to cutting out his fictional middlemen and just straight up filibusters his own comic (“I never wanted to grow up so fast.”), it becomes clear he is less concerned with saying something than the appearance of doing so.