Friday, July 11, 2014
"The saying goes: everyone loves a clown."
Clowns have the unenviable job of making those around them laugh. The thing is, some people are scared to death of clowns and others don't really appreciate their slapstick sense of humor. And behind the make-up are men and women doing a job they may love or hate. Some of them embrace the role, while others view it as just a job. Jared Bastian falls into the latter category in Clown, written by James Maddox and illustrated by Brandon Lauhon.
Bastian is a former journalist. Things were going well for him when he had his job, but then the recession hit and he was forced to find work elsewhere. Unfortunately for him, the only opening he managed to find was as a clown in a roaming circus. When a group of revolutionaries attempt to spread their agenda during his performance, Jared puts a forceful stop to them and finds himself at the center of the Empire's attention.
It's easy to see the title of the book and think that things are going to be pies to the face and seltzer water to the eye. Yes, Clown does feature those antics, but it goes a lot deeper than that. Maddox characterizes Bastian as a man determined to keep two halves of the whole separate; fine with performing as Willie the Worrier as long as the role doesn't identify him. The thing is that Bastian's values bleed through as Willie, so even though he wants the two roles different on their surfaces, at the core he's still the same person. That dichotomy shines through in a singular presentation by the end of the issue as Maddox really drops an emotional hammer on the reader. The majority of the issue is spent with the reader simply following along with the twists and turns of Bastian's clown career and the events lead up to a rather epic and poignant twist.
Much of the book seems to take place in the shadows, which is somewhat ironic considering the clowns perform in the spotlight. Lauhon illustrates the characters with a gritty realism, giving the reader just enough to comprehend what's going on. Many of the characters showcase facial expressions that largely line up with greed and avarice, which is befitting considering that the Empire seems to be all about greed. All of the book is illustrated in black and white, which might be the only minor gripe; considering the book is about clowns, you'd expect to see some colors. It's definitely not something that hurts the book, as the coloring (or lack thereof) emphasizes the emptiness that Bastian feels in his position.
Clown is a fascinating investigation into one man's struggles to reconcile two different halves of himself. His pride is largely destroyed by the fact that he loses his job and is then forced to endure public humiliation in the role of Willie the Worrier. Still though, he forces himself to hold onto what's left of his pride, even in spite of everything else being taken from him. Maddox pens a very compelling tale about the sacrifices we make to better ourselves and how far we're comfortably willing to go to make a living without forfeiting our self-worth. The dark illustrations by Lauhon add a subtle touch of depression to the character and story, effectively presenting Bastian as a sympathetic character. Clown is a fascinating book that delves deep into the soul and presents a delicious moral quandary.
Clown is available now via Comixology.