Box Office Poison Color #2 is all about the retail blues as Alex Robinson narrates a day in the life of our bookstore clerking hero, Sherman. There are a couple pages of most inane customer questions in which Robinson flexes his caricature (and homage) muscles as the main story centers around Sherman hating his job, but not having the guts to quit it and find something that is connected to his sadly useless English degree. The backup story is even better as Robinson tells the backstory of Jane Pekar, Sherman’s cartoonist housemate, and how she fell in love with her boyfriend Stephen, who is a history professor that resembles a sexier Alan Moore.
Robinson chooses to make his protagonist, Sherman, cut a less than a heroic figure from the opening pages featuring his sad dream about his ex, lying on his bed skinny and naked, and clocking into work. He is a man who has chosen to be controlled by his circumstances and just goes with the ebb and flow of his clerk job at Boiling Frog. Like last issue, Box Office Poison Color #2 unfolds at a natural pace showing several customer interactions , some co-worker gossip, and introducing Sherman’s manager “the dragon”, who is just a blonde bobbed middle aged woman. Robinson gets the questions from real customers he had while working at Barnes and Noble, and their fixation on book cover colors is too painful to watch. But, honestly, the part that gave me the worst flashback was the string of inane co-worker gossip strung out by Sherman’s breakroom mate. His disinterested face was me every time a co-worker tried to talk about their boring romantic relationship when all I wanted to do was to read a comic, watch a football game, or play dumb game on my phone in peace.
Robinson uses thought bubbles and frenetically inked panels to show the difference between Sherman’s id and superego in regards to his job. The thought bubbles have every snarky one-liner he wants to direct at a customer, who wants to see a manager even though she knows next to nothing about the book she’s looking for. But Sherman is a consummate professional and doesn’t act on these impulses unlike his buddy James who cusses out their manager and quits in a nine panel grey scale sequence. The interplay of dialogue and speech bubbles are relatable to anyone who has had to put on a special “face” for the general public as Robinson draws Sherman as a monster before he shrinks away and submits to his manager giving him double work for the same pay because James quit. He’s kind of a doormat, but hey, the bills have to be paid somehow.
The second story in Box Office Poison #2 is an unconventional love story featuring Jane and Stephen. Robinson does a good job of showing Jane’s different looks over the year as well as what initially attracted her to Stephen. He throws the romantic comedy tropes in the trashcan and goes full awkward with their first date, which is filled with awkward silences. However, they stick it out as Stephen is super honest about not being great at dating after really only being in one relationship for his whole life, and a bond is forged with Pat Lewis using soft pinks during the more romantic scenes. Jane gets super vulnerable in the story and talks about how she love Stephen, but marriage seems too “adult” for her even though she’s in early 30s. I definitely understand that feeling, which is why I’m entirely skeptical of people in their early 20s getting married while their frontal lobe is still developing. The key to Jane and Stephen’s relationship are that they’re both passionate about their interests, which are comics and history respectively and challenge each other to pursue them. It’s pretty awesome actually.
Alex Robinson continues to round his cast of characters in Box Office Poison #2 showcasing Sherman’s bookstore purgatory along with the kind of amazing relationship between Jane and Stephen. His characters continue to not look like the ideal human form, which fits a story about terrible jobs and falling in love in a less than Garry Marshall way.
Story and Art: Alex Robinson Colors: Pat N. Lewis
Story: 8 Art:8 Overall:8 Recommendation: Buy
IDW Publishing/Top Shelf provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review