Written by Nick Spencer
Cover by W. Scott Forbes
Art by W. Scott Forbes, Marley Zarcone, Jorge Coelho
Colors by W. Scott Forbes, Eric Skillman, Marley Zarcone
Letters by Johnny Lowe
Release Date: May 09, 2012
Cover Price: $14.99
At first I was nervous to jump into Forgetless, the new trade paperback from Nick Spencer, of Morning Glories fame, about a New York City dance party that he has said in interviews is openly influenced by the films Go! and Igby Goes Down. On the one hand I’m a big fan of his work on Morning Glories, and on the other hand I really hated those movies. What I ended up with was an interesting comic about uncompelling New Yorkers which, if you stick with it, has a surprisingly rewarding ending.
There’s three, maybe four plots that pile up, all around the idea that New York City is a beautiful Sonia and Sara are would-be models struggling to get by in the super fashionable and uber rich neighborhood, Soho, and have started moonlighting as hitmen. Their paths cross up with Derrick, a hipster living in Bushwick (The Flight of The Conchords neighborhood, for non-NYCers) whose got some minor Internet-fame for videotaping himself having sex with inanimate objects, but he went one YouTube video to far and now a hit’s been put out on him. The action flashes back and forth, revolving around this confrontation at the Forgetless party. Oh, and very early on a raver in a blue Koala outfit gets shot. He has a story, too.
At this point the art swings back and forth between two different artists with two different styles. W. Scott Forbes incorporates lighting and focus to give the Sonia and Sara story a cinematic cool, while Jorge Coelhos does a somewhat grittier, gross-out style that incorporates backgrounds well and really grounds the story into NYC. The transitions feel a bit clunky at times, but these are two interesting and different artists doing pretty good work.
Now, not to pigeonhole Nick Spencer here, because, again, I really like some of his other work, but from what I’ve read of his, the plot is much more interesting then the characters. Forgetless is no exception, and unfortunately that’s where he puts much of his focus. It’s admirable to see him trying to do character-driven work, and I believe there might be something good down the road for him if he keeps at it, but this work is not that at all. The characters read like devices that get us from point A to point B to point C. They’re quirky, sure, but the voice I hear when I read those word balloons isn’t the voice of a lady hitman, it’s the voice of a comic book writer doing a lady hitman. What got me through the first story of the book, 90 some pages, besides the art was the mechanics of the plot, and that putters out somewhat anti-climatically.
I get that being a struggling New Yorker puts you in very weird positions and situations, I’m one myself, and boy do I have stories I could tell, but this stuff just doesn’t feel right. It’s not fantastic enough to be interesting, and it certainly doesn’t feel down-and-dirty realistic. Maybe it’s supposed to feel expressive of life in the city? Maybe that would have worked if the characters were more compelling.
It doesn’t help that there’s a handful of tiresome rape and gay jokes here. There were a few eye-rolling scenes that really stood out, but one in particular involved a closeted TV executive, a throw-away character, compulsively licking semen for a cheap gag. Really, Nick Spencer? Really, really? Did I shudder because it’s a stupid low blow or because it’s just not that funny? I guess that’s just a chicken/egg question. There was some humor I liked in the book, but there was also some stuff that caused the whole story to just stop in its tracks.
So, yes, I had many gripes reading this book, but then, towards the end, there was one really enjoyable story. It only barely mixed with the other plotlines, focusing instead on three suburban teens from New Jersey and their trials and tribulations sneaking into Forgetless. In the ways that the beginning of the book was nihilistic to this story, without being to naive or sentimental, had a very hopeful view of NYC. It’s the light at the end of the long, suffocating, suburban tunnel for these kids. Artist Marley Zarcone knocked it out the park, too, giving each character their own unique look and expressive body language.
I have a few of the same issues as I had before, characters that felt 2 dimensional at times, but maybe it helped that they were in such a grounded environment? I enjoyed the last story so much I went back and re-read and re-evaluated the beginning of the book. It still wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I saw the device Spencer was probably going for; like any good party front load it with drama and dance it away at the end. If nothing else, it’s an interesting experiment that created some really great pages. I’m still looking forward to anything Spencer does, and I discovered some cool artists along the way.