I Breathed a Body is a series that feels uncomfortably dense. Held up by a barrier wall of language, high and low concepts, and a questionable stance on social media, the book is more befuddling than intriguing.
Let’s start with social media and work backward from there. By this point, the world is overrun with statement art concerning the topic, almost all of which seems to take itself pretty seriously. There’s a sort of pompous air that projects making pseudo-political, anti-social media statements surround themselves with, as if each project seems to believe that it’s making an edgy or somehow new, unreckoned point about the contemporary reliance on, and overindulgence in, the social media ecosystem. The truth is that everyone understands the inherent toxicity of the system; even if someone hasn’t come to the conclusion on their own merits there are yawn-worthy, benign Dave Eggers novels to hold their hand through that awakening.
I Breathed a Body provides a somewhat unique take on the whole endeavor in that there’s a sort of fungus-based black magic involved, which leads us into the high and low concept of the series. On the high-concept side of things, an elemental being (whose name can only be rendered by a symbol that seems to be a scratchy set of antlers) haunts the narrative, having lost a game of cards to the series antagonist, therefore providing him with all his dark magicks. Antler woman has charged unlikeable series protagonist Anne to take that power back, for reasons not particularly well established. Anne’s whole deal is complaining about doing the horrible things her evil boss is making her do while simultaneously doing every single one of those horrible things with full conviction.
On the low-concept side of things, people so worship the social media influencers of this universe that they’ll joyously watch autopsy videos and buy vials of their blood. It culminates, in this issue, with streaming their own self-sacrifices in the name of their dead Insta God, Mylo. Subtlety is not an active aspect of the series.
All of this rigid, joyless posturing would be somewhat forgivable if, say, tongue was planted firmly in cheek, but that does not seem to be the case at all, given that each page of the issue is blanketed with expository dialogue trying to will mythology and concept into existence. Nearly every panel has something to insist to you, whether this be the villain delivering his seemingly endless evil genius monologue or Anne’s interior monologue insisting that she’d rather not be here.
Here, in the penultimate issue, the narrative hangs just as breathlessly on the edge of action as it has for the preceding three; plenty of fungi has been arranged carefully, a lot of blood has been spilled, and the issue ends with a ritual in full swing, yet I still can’t wrap my head around why exactly I’m here. When all the dramatic action remains level — with not a lot of rising action to climax tension — the narrative holds no real stakes, no matter how many times it explains to me that it does.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!