Earlier this summer I read James Tynion and Jeremy Rock’s The Eighth Seal, released in July by IDW Publishing. I enjoyed it but passed on reviewing because I didn’t have much to say on it at the time. Yet I recently read Image Comic’s new release Glitterbomb, by Jim Zub, and found enough common threads between them that I decided to revisit. Both center on female characters in visible professions where they are subjected to scrutiny and criticism; both women are slowly gaining awareness of dark forces within them, and both begin by diving right into the action.
We meet Farrah, the aging, down-on-her-luck actress at the forefront of Glitterbomb, as she is being grilled by an agent who can’t find an angle that makes her sellable. He is less than tactful in expressing this concern, and by the second page his head is being violently penetrated by a stinger-tipped tongue that has thrust forth from Farrah’s mouth and into his. As it retracts we see her features transform from black-eyed and split-lipped back to the Jane Average from page 1. “Oh God… It happened. AGAIN.” From there the issue takes us back through the last six hours of Farrah’s life. She encounters a manipulative, platitude-spewing competitor at an audition, returns to her anxiety-inducing homelife as a frazzled single mother, and reveals to the readers what, exactly, happened along the way to warrant her saying “AGAIN.”
Eighth Seal’s headliner, First Lady Amelia Greene, begins her story at her therapist’s office, where she is prompted to share the details of “another incident.” She tells him of a vision she experienced, in which storytime with a local kindergarten class descended into feeding time for a six-eyed, tentacled monstrosity that burst through her human shell. The arc of this collection follows Amelia as her visions become increasingly common and invasive, drawing intense media scrutiny over her regular fainting spells and strange behavior. We receive a few hints at the nature of the monster that’s haunting her, but I found myself feeling less satisfied by the end than I did with Glitterbomb. Seal, at 122 pages, is the first TPB of five and takes its time developing, whereas Glitterbomb manages to set an equally satisfying amount of world-building into motion in a premiere issue of 40 pages.
Both monsters offer satisfying displays of body horror, but I personally prefer the more simple design of Glitterbomb’s baddie. Whereas the creature Amelia sees herself as is more aesthetically violent, and her position as first lady makes the scale of potential destruction more global, I like the restrained design of Farrah’s possessor better. (It also makes for a nice visual vaginal metaphor in the spirit of Predator, or the facehuggers of Alien.) A key difference is that Amelia’s alter-ego presents itself to her internally, at least at this point in the series. The physical transformation always comes in the form of a vision that manifests itself in the real world as a blackout period. Farrah, however, experiences her physical change live and in-person.
Jeremy Rock’s linework in Seal is very rounded and clean, a look that I usually associate with cartoons that are kid friendly. I don’t think that was an active intention in designing the content, but it did make the content that much more effectively unsettling. Glitterbomb, illustrated by Djibril Morrissett-Phan, is slightly more gritty in its look. The aesthetic differences here are pretty fitting; Amelia is a public political figure with a refined reputation to uphold, and Farrah is an out of work actress going through rough times.
The coloring work is excellent in both. While they each utilize similar palettes, Nolan Woodard and Michael Spicer bring deeper saturation and more lighting effects to Seal while K. Michael Russell’s work on Glitterbomb has more texture to it. Despite both being digital review copies, Glitterbomb still looked like a paper comic compared to Seal. Comparing them side-by-side made me think of the difference between film and video.
Overall I enjoyed both quite a bit, but it took a second reading of Eighth Seal to appreciative it, and there could have been more of a payoff by the end of the first volume. Both titles left me wanting more, but I predict (and hope) Glitterbomb will deliver more swiftly.
The Eighth Seal TPB
Story: James T. Tynion IV Art: Jeremy Rock
Story: 6 Art: 7 Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read
Story: Jim Zub Art: Djibril Morrissett-Phan
Story: 7.5 Art: 9 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy