Monday, January 03, 2005


Many comics bloggers have spoken very highly of Top Shelf as one of the top tier independent comics publishers. I've never actually had a chance to read any of their output, but took a chance on buying a few of their books when they had their big Christmas sale a couple of weeks ago. Cicada has the pleasure of being my first sampling of what Top Shelf has to offer.

Cicada is a very dreary and depressing story of a man wishing to commit suicide looking back upon his failed life. As he goes through the motions of killing himself via overdose, the many things around him in his motel room spark various memories of his life. You get to look at his childhood, the meeting of his wife, the multitude of affairs he has, his wife leaving him, and the sad existence his life took on thereafter.

The jumping back and forth in the story is clearly defined and gives the story the feel of an autobiography of a man about to die. You see why he wants to die and you can sympathize with him. There have been altogether too many times I've talked with people about the topic of suicide only to hear the glib comment, "It's the easy way out and people that commit suicide are weak." It pains me whenever I hear that because suicide isn't the easy way out or the way out of a weak person--many times it appears to be the only way. Cicada makes it clear that suicide seems like the only choice.

In the end, when the final hour of life approaches, instead of drifting off into oblivion, our main character has a change of heart. I had a hard time seeing what the reasoning was for this change of heart and it gave the ending a feeling of being forced simply for the sake of having something uplifting to end the story on. For full effect, I believe it would have been best to let our lead end his life and show the finality of what suicide brings. I'm not the writer, however, so all I can say is that the ending didn't feel right.

The art definitely has an indie feel to it. It's in black & white, pretty simplistic, and follows a simple layout pattern on each page. The art gets the gist of the story across, but doesn't add anything more. Frankly, the reason I've often had a hard time getting into indie comics is that art is a big thing for me and with most indie productions art is what ends up being sacrificed. In the end this was a decent and quick read. Since it was so quick, it's a little hard to justify the $12.95 price tag, but if you can find it on the cheap you might as well give it a go.

Art: 1.75
Story: 3.75
Overall: 3.25

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