KARMEN #1/ Story, Art & Cover by GUILLEM MARCH/ Color Assists by TONY LOPEZ/ Translation by DAN CHRISTENSEN/ Letters by CROMATIK, LTD/ Variant Cover by MILO MANARA/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
Guillem March is best known to American audiences for the artwork he’s produced for Batman, Catwoman and Harley Quinn. Yet the Spanish artist is also a writer and has produced a number of original graphic novels for Titan Comics and Europe Comics. Karmen is his latest work and it is difficult to describe but a wonder of a read.
Our title character is an angel of sorts, but who she works for and what her purpose is remains as vague as Karmen’s meandering speech patterns. In taking charge of a young woman named Catalina (Cata for short), Karmen drops a lot of complex metaphysical ideas and then tries to explain them with half-remembered movie references. The whole story is very dreamlike, even before we get to the parts where Karmen tries to teach Cata how to fly over the city while she’s stark naked!
March proves to be as skilled a storyteller textually as he is visually. I found myself perplexed by the linear tone of Karmen before I let myself go and give in to the dream-like logic of the story and visuals. In that respect, Karmen invites comparison to Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman in how it presents the idea of the story itself being slightly unreal without being surreal.
A word of warning, though. Beyond earning its M-rating with a lead protagonist who spends all of this first issue naked and some lurid discussion about what one might do while being naked and invisible in a public place, Karmen does have some shocking imagery regarding the subject of suicide. While the subject matter is handled tactfully and tastefully, it might be upsetting to some, so I include this trigger warning with that caveat.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Karmen after a single issue. Like a dream, its purpose and meaning elude me. But also like a dream, I find myself having enjoyed the sensation, even as I struggle with the details and trying to describe it. Perhaps, like a dream, it cannot truly be shared, but must be experienced? If that is the case, I encourage you all to experience this dream.
Karmen #1 releases on March 10, 2021.