I feel like I have always been a fan of comic books. Considering that my childhood was surrounded by exquisite examples of the medium both in print and on television—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, Batman,The Tick—there was really no avoiding it. All that in mind, I never really considered myself a true believer until my brother gave me the first few volumes of Garth Ennis’ Transmetropolitan. That book was crass and vulgar in all the right ways.
I say this so you can have some perspective when I say that Titan Comics’ Peepland is a vulgar, cynical mess.
I tried to enjoy Peepland, I really did. From the very first page, where the reader is treated to nearly every bit of our protagonist (Roxy Bell), I knew I had to run for the bandages, because this comic is all about being edgy. Nudity and naughty language abounds; this book is not for younger eyes. Sadly, Peepland doesn’t seem to want to do anything with all of this explicit material, save only to make sure teenagers hide this comic from snooping parents.
Roxy proceeds to explain to her customer the nature of a peepshow. A better writer may have taken this opportunity to establish a theme about voyeurism or spectacle, maybe even tried make a comparison between that and the essential nature of comic books, but I digress. We are soon visited by some plot in the form an aspiring pornographer on the run from some local ruffians. He deposits a videocassette in the stuffing of a stool, pleads with Roxy for secrecy, and swiftly departs.
Thus we have the central conflict of this story. The hero has a thing that, presumably, holds some sort of dark knowledge, and other people would like that thing. Stakes have never been higher. The police show up, as our fleeing friend seems to have met with a terrible fate, and are immediately hostile in their questioning of Roxanne and her co-workers at the titular Peepland. Here is another part of this story that really rubbed me the wrong way. The world seems uniformly hostile to our protagonist and her friends, leading to this overbearing feeling of cynicism throughout the book. There’s nothing wrong with being cynical, but this level of it is just grating and obnoxious.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however; in fact the art paints an alarmingly different picture. Artist Andrea Camerini does an impressive job at counterbalancing the depressing story with bright colours and clean lines. No matter how off putting I found the rest of the book, the art remained a bright neon light in the darkness.
At the end of the day Peepland #1 reminds me of something I might have written during the angstier parts of my teen years. I seem to have been wrong earlier when I lamented the missed