This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin.
Those of you who have been following the Digital Ash column here on Comics Bulletin know that, as a group, we're pretty big fans of what Study Group is doing. When I found out that one of my favorite cartoonists, Box Brown, was going to have a new series on Study Group, needless to say it created a harmonic convergence of glee here in my Northern California home.
Softcore is Box Brown's latest offering. It's all presented in a jarring palate of yellow and a deep, dark purple. Of the series, Brown writes: “Enter the world of faux-amateur pornography, paranoia, e-cigarettes and blak magik.” If that's not a tag line to get you interested, you are probably dead to me already. The first issue (which is all that is up at the time of this writing) is basically set up. We meet our protagonist, the “faux-amateur pornographer”, who seems to be getting into this “business” because he is either scared or tired of prostitutes. His buddy Frank has turned him on to the idea of hiring models to “service” him, and our hero is, in the course of this comic, taking his first pictures.
Candy, the Russian(?) woman our hero photographs, shows up with another guy, Nikolai. The first issue ends with some kind of weird allusion to some other thing going on. I assume this is the “blak magik” Brown referenced in his solicitation.
There's a lot of set up here, this being the first issue and all, but Brown has put enough things into play to get my interest. His characters have room for growth, his plot could go anywhere at this point, and his cartooning is, as usual, a treat to behold.
Brown's work usually deals with outsiders and outcasts trying to find either their purpose or place in the world. He often throws in a twist of some sort to comment on the futility of such an endeavor. Softcore seems to be another work along those lines, but in this case, exploring a world marginalized by and repugnant to the larger social order.
How “faux-amateur pornography, paranoia, e-cigarettes and blak magik” all fit together in this series will be interesting to watch. I trust Box Brown as a storyteller as much as I do a cartoonist, so I'm pretty confident that, in the end, this series is going to wonk my head with a deft touch and stylistic aplomb.
Study Group has established itself firmly as a great source of really interesting web comics and a platform for artists to showcase their talents. Softcore is a perfect fit for this venue, and it is certainly one that I will be following in the weeks and months to come.
Read Softcore on the Study Group Comic Books website.
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