Saturday, January 15, 2011

Multiplex Review

I realized as I did my End-of-2010 wrap-ups that I didn't read/review a single graphic novel / trade collection last year. I read plenty of single issues of comics, but I don't usually count those towards my book count (although occasionally I have finished a storyline, noticed that a trade collection was available, and posted the review). Going to try to rectify that this year since I have so many GNs/collections on my shelves that I haven't read (and some I've been dying to reread). Kicking things off:

Book 02: MULTIPLEX: Enjoy Your Show, Book One by Gordon McAlpin, isbn 9780984322206, 218 pages, Chase Sequence, $19.95

The Premise: We all know working retail can be hell ... working movie theater retail can be even worse. The staff at the Multiplex 10 in suburban Chicago make the best of it, though. Kurt, Jason, Becky, Melissa, Franklin and the rest fight the never-ending battle for better movies, intelligent snark and romantic shenanigans. Multiplex is a work-place comedy, a Brat-Pack flick and "Dinner For Five" rolled together in a clean, crisp, simple art style. Book One collects the first 102 strips from the Multiplex webcomic, but also includes 12 pages of new "prequel" story set on the night "Revenge of the Sith" opened.

Rating: 3.5 stars (after some internal struggle)

My Thoughts: Because I feel like I've become friends (or at least acquaintances) with Gordon McAlpin through Twitter and through the crowd-funding project that enabled him to bring Multiplex to print form, I had the urge to just paste a 5 star rating onto this. But that wouldn't be an honest assessment of the book, and I'm sure Gordon would rather have an honest review than a kiss-ass/flattering one.

So why 3.5? Because I've grown so accustomed to where McAlpin's webcomic is currently at that looking back at the earliest strips is a bit jarring. There's a little bit of rough edge to a portion of this book. McAlpin hits his story-telling stride towards the end of this volume and really comes into his own in the strips that I presume will someday form Book Two. If I were reviewing the webcomic in full, I'd give it 4 stars for sure, possibly 4.5. But honesty compels me to recognize that at this early point in the series (2005), McAlpin was still finding his way into his story pacing, his characters, and his art.

And I do honestly enjoy the characters. I see parts of myself in several of them -- I mean, hey, I am still a pop-culture geek and occasionally a bit of a snob and a bit of a hopeless romantic as well -- and even more so I see quite a few of the twenty-somethings I know in the characters as well. I've enjoyed, over the last few years of the webcomic, watching them grow, watching the cast expand and diversify, and watching Gordon's art improve and change to fit the type of story he's telling.

But what really shines in this book is the brand new "prequel" material not found on the website. Twelve pages set on the night of the premiere of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, in which McAlpin introduces us to the main and supporting characters who run through the first 102 strips. It gives new readers a chance to get to know Kurt, Jason, Becky and the rest, and to see just how much they really do love their jobs (no matter what they may say to the contrary). I'm glad Gordon was able to take the time to add these pages and kick the book off showing what he's capable of.

I definitely recommend checking out Multiplex on the Web. And if you really want to laugh, go check out my original review of the webcomic from almost three years ago on the now-defunct Comic Fencing website.

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