Sunday, 24 January 2010

Review: Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson

This is one of those comics titles that's been on the edge of my radar for years. The sort of thing you hear mentioned when people talk about titles that are Really Damn Good, and that You Really Should Read. Sadly, that's also the kinda thing that a lot of us never get round to. Thankfully, I bought this huge 600 page tome of independent comics joy after Christmas with some vouchers for my local indie comics emporium, and I must tell you that this book more than justifies the high(ish) price tag. It is a genuine thing of beauty.

Originally published as a series of mini comics, Box Office Poison drew increased popularity through simply being really, really good. No huge advertising campaigns, no 'speculator' foil stamped covers, nothing but good content. The story follows a group of very normal people doing very normal things, but that's usually what makes for extraordinary lives in many cases. Reading Box Office Poison, it's impossible not to love the characters. Where in many comics, characters are only characterized by which way the speech bubble tail is pointing, here you have characters that have good days and bad days, personal problems and very real neuroses.

A chunk of the action takes place in the comic book industry itself, which is something not all that many people will be able to relate to, but it is handled in a very human way that pulls you in due to the effects it has on the characters involved. My personal favourite aspect of the Box Office Poison universe is the troubled relationship between Sherman and Dorothy, which shows off Robinson's skill at creating characters with well defined personalities.

Something that is evident when reading the full book is how Robinson's art style developed over the course of the comic's run. You can see he had some refining to do at the start, but the rough edges are quickly smoothed over and his figures and layouts quickly become really strong. It's a cliche, but I honestly could not put this book down. There's a collection of short pieces too, More Box Office Poison, which is also superb. This main collection is essential though- it's a big, thick book that pulls you in and makes you long for more once you reach the end. Bliss.

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