Wet Moon Book 1: Feeble Wanderings
Ross Campbell, writer/artist
Oni Press, December 2004
I’d imagine your tolerance for this book will vary proportionately to your tolerance for goth culture, because it’s definitely about goths. There are a lot of piercings and unusual hairstyles and ripped stockings and purses with little batwings sewn on them. But this strange, slow story about a group of kids at either the Savannah College of Art and Design or a fictional facsimile thereof isn’t your usual po-faced every-day-is-Halloween goth artifact. There’s a sadness and a weakness and a feebleness to everyone’s presentation of themselves as Goths, a recognition that this identity is the result of chipping away at certain surface characteristics until the desired result is achieved but that there can still be any number of chinks in the armor. Cleo and her friends/enemies more or less live in squalor, with pizza boxes and bags of chips and cockroaches strewn hither and yon. They make much of their bodily functions. They always look kind of tired and sickly. None of this is in the glamorous way that goths are supposed to work, either. Indeed the only character who truly appears to have perfected a seamless goth look and lifestyle is treated almost like an alien. And humor deflates the pretension on several occasions (what’s up, punch to the boobs?).
What is glamorous about the book is its recreation of that sense of languid, sexy ennui-bordering-on-mania that afflicts certain types of people in college. Laziness so profound it becomes almost sensual, a constant unspoken sizing-up of your fellow young people as sexual objects, a feeling that, despite being surrounded by like-minded individuals in a setting expressly designed to stimulate the exchange of ideas, you’re alone with your thoughts. This is essentially the storyline, but it’s best expressed through Campbell’s art itself. His women are extremely sexy in the way his lush line sort of idealizes their imperfections, and his dudes ain’t so shabby either, but they all have this slightly slackjawed, tired-eyed look of being dazed. Campbell frequently frames them awkwardly within their panels, using the surrounding space to suggest that they’re always a little lost, which is sort of the point.