Written by Jim Zub and Holly Raychelle Hughes
Art by Djibril Morissette-Phan and K. Michael Russell
Lettered by Marshall Dillon
Published by Image Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Los Angeles is a void that drains the life out of you. The entertainment industry takes your hope. Both are negative spaces, and this much is clear from Glitterbomb #2 from the choices of both series writer Jim Zub and artist Djibril Morissette-Phan (working with K. Michael Russell) to utilize negative space in their contributions towards this issue. The former uses the issue to examine Farrah’s wider life as well as Brooke’s fears of becoming invisible (when people start seeing everything besides her), while the latter plunges L.A. into darkness through shadow and a sea of black. This truthfully honest book provides genuine fear beyond the David Cronenberg-inspired elements by burrowing deep into characters’ psyches to find real-world concerns.
Zub brings in a standard-issue hook for a narrative involving a murder, a detective. He’s Isaac Rahal and gets to work the moment he’s introduced into solving the murder of an agent to the stars. It’s establishes the early stages of a cat and mouse between him and Farrah, but the issue shines through because it devotes time to character and theme instead of going down the typical path. Brooke’s therapy session drags ageism to the front and center in order to highlight just how vicious Hollywood is for someone who once they hit a certain age and how everyone younger preemptively prepares for that moment. Therapy is also for getting everything out and creates an overt link with the monster that’s currently inhabiting Farrah (and is responsible for the murder). This raises wider discussion on body issues. In any other book it’d be a risk to design the two central characters to look similar, but here it helps to construct the core ideas behind the book. In L.A., it’s all too easy to find someone younger and prettier than you who will work for less which is also the core thesis behind Hughes’ essay.
This is due to Morissette-Phan’s style. On the whole the book feels quiet. This issue in particular is light on action, the monster takes a back seat for the moment, but there’s plenty of movement, when the book slows down to focus on a bottle for a few panels, the way it travels is clear alongside how the other elements in the scene act in response. He’s also consistent - a page involving a car has the same layout as a scene from the first issue and this patterned use of a stylistic element is helping to establish a motif. Brooke and Farrah continue to look similar from afar, but when the camera pulls in close, their facial structures are just slightly different to make them discernible from the other.
But it’s in the two-page spreads and splashes where he and Russell get to run with it. Shadow and darkness is a common element in them all, the one taking place during daylight hours still makes the detective intimidating despite the warm colors. Later on they get the chance to depict the L.A. skyline. The Neon Demon is a recent movie which overtly dealt with the ideas conveyed in this book, but it’s here where the light of the city seems like a mirage over a beacon of hope in a subtler and more nuanced way.
If you want a sequence that represents everything the book is striving towards, and achieving towards, show then look no further than the pair of two-page spreads centering around Farrah watching TV. The negative space takes hold as the television emits the only source of light in the scene and even then what it’s showing only serves to illustrate how Farrah herself and the other inhabitants of the industry see her as someone past her prime because it’s been a while since she was on a show.
Followed up with a poignant essay by Hughes, it becomes clear that the sense of dread the book is imbued with doesn’t spring forth from the paranormal elements, but the reminders of normality taken directly from the real world. Everyone involved is crafting a tale that serves to show Hollywood isn’t as glamorous as the pictures make it out to be.