I have never traveled to Europe. I’ve always dreamed of visiting its cathedrals, sleepy towns, and cultured hubs. But in Karmen #2, I’m taken on a visually striking tour of European roots as Guillem March continues to showcase one of his most creative designs yet.
As we dive into the pages of Karmen #2, we witness muted browns, baby pinks, soft greens, and glowing oranges that let you feel like you’re basking in Europe’s golden hour. We glimpse into the private lives of citizens as they watch TV, hang their laundry or engage in intimate, passionate moments of desire. We appreciate the detail of a tree’s powerful branches, the mosaic stained glass windows of a church, and a sea of villas all quietly content in its place. Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautiful comics my eyes have ever witnessed.
March takes this visual journey a step further by adding striking composition and innovative layouts across a number of panels. On one page, March uses split depth panels to give the illusion of Cata flying out of the page adding a layer of immersion. On some panels, Cata is upside down, letting the reader interact with the page by physically flipping the comic to appreciate small details.
Not only does March capture the environment, architecture, and culture, but Cata’s facial expressions of worry, anguish, and rage are all deeply felt as we continue to follow her story. As we experience her ecstatic thrill of transcending the physical laws of our world, we almost forget about the despairing heartbreak Cata felt in issue #1.
Even Cata needs a moment of recollection for herself. She discovers a spot in town that brings vivid memories of her friendship with Xisco, a childhood friend turned crush. After indulging in her nostalgia, she suddenly sees Xisco sitting on a bench. She immediately runs to him, desperate to tell him of her invisible existence all while deciding whether the risk of being seen is worth it. As she makes her final decision, she’s interrupted by his conversation over the phone with Cata’s roommate Joana, revealing his true, painful intentions with her.
It’s here that Karmen #2 unpacks the raw emotions of betrayal, loneliness, and insecurity. And in a timely fashion, the eccentric guardian angel, Karmen appears and indulges a philosophical heart to heart. After making a return from an ambiguous event with a man on an airplane, she spends time psychoanalyzing Cata’s emotions. Why would you want to go back to your old life when you now live in a world where you don’t exist for anyone? Isn’t loneliness everything Cata says she wanted?
Well, unsurprisingly, it’s complicated. As Cata wrestles with her emotions, Karmen plays devil’s advocate by challenging Cata’s insecurities and her dilemma with Xisco. Their dialogue is reminiscent of the times we seek counsel from others. It’s the closest that Karmen feels to a therapist or a close friend… until their heart to heart concludes shockingly and abruptly, leaving me in a desperate wonder of what’s to come next.
But Karmen #2 isn’t a perfect issue. Some elements of March’s writing feel clunky and a little random. This may be due to the fact that it is translated from the original Spanish graphic novel, while other elements feel uncomfortably inappropriate. It’s hard to ignore the mature themes that are present in the series, particularly as there are no trigger warnings around sensitive subject matters. These may present roadblocks in an immediate appreciation for March’s story, but a discerning read uncovers a thoughtful conversation about human nature.
While Karmen #2 lacks the expository dialogue found in issue #1, it makes up for it with its visually striking art and innovative page layouts. An ethereal and quirky narrative about heartbreak and the human condition, curiosity is right around the corner as we lead into the next issue.
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