The shopping experience is everything and in the future your experience will be protected, with excessive force is necessary. This is the concept behind AfterShock Comics new title out this week, Shoplifters Will Be Liquidated, created by Patrick Kindlon and Stefano Simeone.
There are familiar themes and references throughout the comic which touches on one of the more popular topics of the day: shopping. It is a bizarre, action science fiction story that lambasts modern consumerism and the big corporations that attempt to sell you everything with 100% satisfaction guaranteed.
The story follows, Nussbaum, one of the top security guards at the flagship Caucasus Superstore. Nussbaum prowls the aisles, literally smelling out shoplifters and other trouble causers. His personal maxim is one of total loyalty to the company and no mercy to the criminal.
Unfortunately for Nussbaum, not everything is rosy in the corporate hierarchy and when the head honcho has an emotional breakdown, the floor literally drops away beneath his feet.
Kindlon has created a fascinating cast to populate his narrative. The central character is driven and has something missing from his life, something that focuses all of his emotions into doing his job. His imbalanced psyche is clear in his speech and the uncomfortable facial expressions which Simeone gives him. He is not a character that you would trust and, as a central character, he makes the entire world of Shoplifters shifty.
This central uncomfort allows Kindlon to shine a bright light on this supposed Shopping Paradise and, without being to specific, draw parallels with the real world. The superstore where Nussbaum works is the next evolutionary stage for the shopping giants of today, similar to Kerblam! from the latest series of Doctor Who. It is full of corruption, greed, and ultimately has nothing to do with providing customer satisfaction. Kindlon is able to get these ideas and themes across without having to spend too much time elaborating them. The concerns are there, in the background and in the deeper reading of the central characters.
Nussbaum’s life disintegrates fast once the story gets going and Kindlon doesn’t hang around in the world outside of the Superstore. One unfortunate incident quickly follows another until the entire world is opened up with an ending that seems familiar but you just can’t put your finger on why. There are elements of Blakes’ 7, Logan’s Run, and even some recent Judge Dredd comics; all mixed up together in the narrative pot.
The clinical, clean world of Caucasus is represented perfectly in Simeone’s art. The sets are all sharp angles, polished blues, and orderly boxes. Into this are thrown the awkward characters whose shapes don’t quite fit and contrast the backgrounds and buildings. There is an expressiveness to the way Simeone renders the characters, concentrating on movements and actions. The slow twisting of the head or the impact of a fist on a punchbag are important to Simeone’s character developments.
The story is told through the changing color washes and the gliding movements of characters from one panel to another. If Shoplifters Will Be Liquidated is nothing else it is dynamic; an emotional, expressive dissection of the human mind pushed to the limits in a world of corporate manipulation.
The narrative isn’t always clear. There are moments where the break in scenes is momentarily lost in the transitions between pages. This requires the reader to revisit a number of points to clarify what is happening. However, the themes are always present, clear as day, on every page.
The tone is stamped into place by the lettering from Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. It reflects the clinical nature of the Superstore but has a human element, as illustrated by the hand-drawn, square speech balloons. Much of the speech is as harsh as the rest of the comic, sharp borders to the speech balloons and inconsistency in the font sizes. It’s as if, even through the speech, the creators don’t want the reader to warm to the characters.
Shoplifters Will Be Liquidated shines a harsh light on consumerism as it tells a fast paced, action story. The art work is as cold and cruel as the corporation running the Superstore within the comic. It quickly sets the scene and themes but it may take longer for the reader to acclimatise to the storytelling style.
The coloring and lettering helps the reader along, constantly reiterating the style and tone of the story. The central character isn’t easy to like which is reflected throughout all of the artwork. Even by the end you aren’t sure if Nussbaum is a hero or villain which is surely the larger point that Kindlon is trying to make?