|Review by Lily Fierro|
Writer: Curt Pires
Yep, there’s no doubt that we’re in an age of insipid, vacuous pop culture.
Every major news channel reports on the rise and fall of the next vapid young starlet or star, be it one of film or music.
Every advertisement has the face of said starlet or star.
Every social media channel has candid photos of the starlet or star.
We live in an age where we seem to care more than ever about the lives of media celebrities, but why?
Sure, there’s some fascination with the luxurious life. And most definitely, there’s a, “What would I do if I had that level of fame?” curiosity.
And perhaps, there is a morbid sense of, “Wow, thank goodness I’m not that messed up.”
With all of that speculation and rationalization about our sick wonderment and consumption of the lives and creations of vapid stars and starlets upfront and now aside, a question remains: what or who controls the media spectacle of today that feeds our curiosity and hunger for these tragic and disastrous figures?
Pop responds to this question with a science fiction response.
In the world of Pop, a conglomeration of media egomaniacs develops and incubates the next celebrity in glass pods. Created from a specification defined by PR and ad executives, these test-tube celebrities rise to fame on their pre-defined assets and fall quickly from grace on their pre-defined foibles. Though the face, the gender, and the race may vary from creation to creation, each celebrity follows an all too familiar arc of rising fame and falling popularity.
Within the labs of the conglomeration, a revolt may be occurring. Elle Ray, the next of the young and beautiful to rise to stardom, wakes outside of her glass pod through the help of an unknown benefactor and makes a grand escape. The epitome of the Now, Elle seeks the help of Coop, the owner of a record and comic book store (and the book definition of someone stuck in the past) who is closing up shop on the sidewalk Elle runs on during her escape.
Soon after the knowledge of Elle’s escape reaches the various agents of the conglomeration, Elle becomes the target of a major search, and the people seeking her return send out their finest bounty hunters, a punk couple who make their living on hunting and punishing the celebrities who step out of line (ah yes, most modern punks are hardly the rebellious leaders of counterculture anymore). The first volume of Pop focuses its plot on this pursuit and chase, and in turn, we spend most of our time in the volume with Elle and Coop blindly on the run, for neither knows what’s next or how to handle their current scenario.
From a plot and character perspective, the hunt and the resulting character building of Elle, Coop, and the bounty hunting couple absolutely propel the narrative and keep the readers engaged in the first volume.
However, what really makes Pop stand out is the interjecting panels offering Elle’s internal thoughts and teachings and the thoughts of Elle’s unknown benefactor who facilitated her escape. These interjecting panels have some of the most stunning artwork from Jason Copeland and the finest use of color from Pete Toms in addition to offering commentary on the media machine controlling the world of Pop, which apply to the media machine controlling our own post 2000s reality.
Pop has a culture and a style reflective of the pop art and pop culture of today. It captures the emptiness and feebleness of most cultural products in a modern world dominated by technology making interaction and information faster than ever and social media making external personas easier to create while wearing away the human identity behind everything. There’s a little Warhol here, a little Pynchon there, even some Cronenberg in the corner, and plenty of incarnations of stars whom you wondered why exactly they rose to fame as they did.
Occasionally, Pop seethes with cynicism and almost overwhelming pretentiousness in addressing the nihilism of media conglomerate control, but I’ll give the heavy handedness a pass because it only appears in fragments and at only appropriate times.
Ultimately, Pop acknowledges and creates a discourse around the triviality and nihilism of mass pop culture and intertwining celebrity while creating a visually beautiful series focused on two characters who must navigate a world set out against them.
Thus, by combining a fascinating modern topic to tackle in graphic novel form with characters and a plot readers can grab onto, Pop is on its way to becoming its own special, reflective work of media outside of our own major media conglomerates.