Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Soul kiss #1-5

"Soul kiss" is the name of the just-concluded Steven Seagle and Marco Cinello mini-series, packed as part of the "Men of action" creative studio and published through Image. Seagle is a veteran writer, mainly known for his genre-bending work on Vertigo's "Sandman mystery theatre" and "House of secrets", as well as the more personal "It's a bird" graphic novel. His creative partner on "Soul kiss" is a long-time animator Cinello, who participated in projects as diverse as "We're back" and "Rob Zombie's Superbeasto". Together, they have collaborated on a very unusual project that ended up as a 5-part "Men of action" mini-series. It's published by Image as a part of the wave of the studio's other projects, such as Duncan Rouleau's "the Great unknown", and two new Joe Kelly projects, "Bad dog" with Diego Greco, and "Four eyes" with Max Fiumara.

From the start, "Soul kiss" is a project that instantly grabs the reader by it's spontaneous narration, acknowledging the weirdness of a tale that it's about to tell. The hints are supplemented by surreal images, that serve to further entice and establish the air of fantastic possibilities that Seagle and Cinello's story could evolve in. Lili, the book's female protagonist, quickly establishes herself as a complex individual, but also one that is thoroughly accessible by the virtue of her young age, and the constant focus that the creators put on her movements. It's her own insecurity and self-doubt in a defining moment of her life that make both Lili and the audience share all the excitement and mystery of a modern fable that she finds herself living.

And that's a very accurate definition of the comic, because the authors paint a tale that surpasses the supernatural trappings of the genre and hearkens back to the earliest age of the storytelling. By featuring the deal with the Devil as the motivator for the tale's morale, the creators obviously tried to achieve an ambitious goal with their experimentation. Seagle's script is thus very modern, with fast pacing and slang dialogue. The post-graduate lifestyle he surrounds Lili with is likewise both current and believable, albeit highly stylized. The hysterical vibe Cinello took from the writer is only amplified by his dynamic artwork. As is the case with Scott (Elektra: Glimpse and Echo) Morse, his work is at all times very fluid, distinctive and attractive. The artist exhibits a very particular look at the page layout, that exemplifies unity and ties in very organically with the script.

The closes thing the comic itself feels like is a Sam ("Maxx", "Four women") Kieth effort. Having a female lead amid a very chaotic story, that manages to retain the reader's interest by a strong adherence to internal logic, somehow ends up serving a very relatable young adult parable, just like with "the Zero girl". In that respect, "Soul kiss" seems almost better suited being marketed to a manga audience.

No matter the situation, and they are increasingly grotesque, Seagle's narration maintains the feeling of getting to an objective truth, with every detail on it's way a metaphor for the depth that is gradually being revealed. This is maintained by the events that are always related to the everyday life, integrating even the most bizarre happenings with a flick of the Devil's wrist. The rush that Lili finds herself in, and her propensity for finding the fastest solution available, are maintained from the very beginning, and the first choice she makes at the "Soul kiss"' beginning.

This explains the various liberties the creators take with depicting the plot's progression, such as mind wipes and reality alterings. The settings are all part of the fable structure, to be torn and rearranged after they have made their point, and another part of the story is about to commence. It's really difficult then to discuss the book as anything other than the sum of it's pieces. Because keeping up with "Soul kiss"'s energy means that even the work's shortcomings are hard to really concentrate on. Somehow, all of Cinello's figures seem a bit shortened, and appear as if the caricatures are hindered by the character's strange proportions. At the same time, the distinctiveness in those very same faces make them stand apart as almost archetypal, to the point that they start perfectly complementing the social roles they play in Lili's life.

Similarly, some of the dialogue feels a bit too hip, but that's instantly made forgettable through a powerful bond made between the narrator and the reader. The storytelling on the whole is so enticing and wholesome, that just like the oddities in the plot, it makes all the rest of the comic's elements feel very deliberate and actually inseparable from everything that is "Soul kiss".

And it ends up being a modern fable, all around, that makes it's points definite, speaking of love in a very dirty and semi-realistic way. Of course, all the while Seagle and Cinello foreshadow their conclusion with all of the energy and creativity they can muster. The epilogue that the creators leave their readers with is once again a very stylish vignette, reestablishing the confident beginning of the story. Having made their tale of inter-personal dynamics, sex and relationships, they prefer to make their final mark a subtle goodbye, using all of their charm to thank the listeners for their time.

Anyone expecting a different kind of weird and sexy comics should be pleased to give "Soul kiss" a try, as it's the most personal and creative take on ages-old story that Seagle and Cinello could have delivered.

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