Written by Jim Zub and Holly Raychelle Hughes
Art by Djibril Morissette-Phan and K. Michael Russell
Lettering by Marshall Dillon
Published by Image Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
On occasion, art can be released in response to real world events, seen with charity singles designed to raise money after a natural disaster. Other times, the world can change between the creation of art and its subsequent release like when Lilo & Stitch originally contained a plane being shot at, swapping it for a spaceship in the wake of 9/11. In light of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Glitterbomb #4 becomes a piece of art which fits into thesecond of those categories. Regardless of the vote’s outcome, it would still be an emotionally-charged conclusion to the arc as Farrah takes control of the spotlight, but in the wake of the election, it’s also an incredibly relevant statement on the state of the world and the people who hold the power within it.
After an opening flashback to Farrah’s time on Space Farers which introduces us to Cliff, Jim Zub waltzes the characters down the red carpet, bringing Detective Rahal back into the spotlight. Speaking of spotlights, Farrah gets one trained on her as she literally takes centre stage later in the issue to deliver an impassioned reiteration of the core ideas that have shaped the book so far. The issue builds to an event which the book was going to deal with eventually, but the conclusion is shocking and unseen. Despite this, it makes perfect sense with how the pieces on the board align and the way it’s depicted by Djibril Morissette-Phan gives it the required narrative heft to really resonant in spite of how quickly it happens.
An extended issue gives Morissette-Phan space to further detail scenes. A spread of the Donby Theatre and the street where it resides makes for a sharp contrast between the left-hand side as people clamour for a look at glammed-up celebrities and the darkness creeping in from the right. A later spread smashes the glitz and body-horror together in a showcase for Morissette-Phan, but also K. Michael Russell who blends the lavish locale with a darker tone around the edges as the explicit horror elements take control. Both of these spreads have a lot going on, but avoid being overly dense and bogged down. Each event in the moment has space to breathe and connects with the others to form a larger tapestry.
Which is an idea which follows through to the meat of the issue sandwiched between these two spreads, in particular two pages that consists of twelve panels each. These 24 panels make up eight vignettes. In the most basic sense of the word, these create a montage, a whistle-stop tour of other guests that Farrah meets and their interactions, but it also gives way to what montage meant to the Soviet Formalists of the 1920s. For people like Sergei Eisenstein, shots had no meaning on their own, it was what they were placed next to that conferred the meaning. So a shot of a man followed by a sandwich implied he was hungry. The first shot in these vignettes provide a new character to the audience. When the first four of these vignettes are connected to the following flashback panels, the book informs us of how the characters have remained the same between the sepia-drenched past and now. Concluding with a close-up on Farrah informs us of how she remembers these people from the past and what she thinks of them as a result.
Looking at the second page, the new character followed by Farrah’s emotional, and then her physical, response creates a connection between her and these characters. When looking at both pages together it highlights those welcomed by the system and those who have to actively fight to remain a part of it, justifying the actions of those welcomed.
In isolate, the sequence is well structured, but when looked at in conjunction with other pages between the two spreads, it’s clear the larger structure of the book is cohesive as well, as the issue slowly, but gradually eases the body horror back into the real-world horror that’s present from the opening pages. Building to the final narrative beats and Farrah’s raw words, in the wake of the 2016 election, they gain even more relevance and may continue to do so depending on how the Best Actor Oscar race shapes up in the months to come.
The real-world stuff has always been the more important thematic factor, but they seem more real now, something which can also be said about Holly Raychelle Hughes’ essay. In a way this makes Glitterbomb the book of 2016, in an ideal world we wouldn’t be at this point, but as a result, we have art like this to stand up and speak out. The series and creative team are taking a break until the back half of next year, operating like a TV show, but it’s guaranteed that this series will be something to think about until it returns.