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F-Stop. F-Stop
Written by Antony Johnston
Drawn by Matthew Loux
Published by Oni Press; $14.95 USD

This book attempts to be a casual and fun little story that also, if we are to believe to the back cover, takes “a hilarious swipe at the hype-driven world of high fashion.” This would all be good if any of its swipes actually had some teeth to them. Instead we get a dull tale of an inexperienced photographer who becomes a hit precisely because of his amateurishness, in what is meant to be a “The Emperor Has No Versace Clothes” tale. There is no doubt that the fashion industry is a pretty vapid place but since this comic itself is so lifeless its hard to see why the creators behind it feel they have any case against such an industry.

The first major problem is the artwork of Loux. If there are any plans to subvert the glamour of the fashion industry an artist should be able to capture it first. Loux is unable to do this, or at least not for most of the book. The characters are all outlined with a very thick line, are meant to portray emotion with beady little eyes and have these tall, lanky bodies. This would be perfect for skewering the models that walk down the runway but Loux never strikes a feel of exaggeration for story’s sake with these character designs. Almost every character is drawn this way, from the ones we are meant to sympathize with to the ones we are meant to “boo” at, as if the look is to be inviting somehow. It all ends up looking so bland, especially combined with the story, as if you had claymation characters like Gumby and Prickle act out the screenplay to “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” There are some parts that show Loux’s promise. The few scenes where main character Nick Stoppard is doing a shoot get much more stylized, with models posing with very slanted bodies across double-page spreads. These scenes do look cool with Loux’s style, it’s just unfortunate that he cannot create the same excitement in the panel-to-panel action.

The unimpressive nature of the book is very much due to Johnston’s script. There are many romantic comedies in the theaters that seem like sitcom ideas stretched out for an hour and a half. This is sort of excepted because you can imagine how a budding television writer can do a few changes to his or her idea and sell it to Paramount. What we have here is a much more curious creature. This is a book that has a television-sized story that is meant to hold the reader’s attention in the form of a 167-page graphic novel. A reader is going to try and immerse him or herself into the world between the pages here. It’s a task only made harder when we have such scenes as the second-in-command chewing out the plucky hero, only to have the boss come in (which we are meant to expect will make our man’s situation even worse), see the photos and declare (to the surprise off all the people in the story, if not all the people reading the story) “these are WONDERFUL!” After the simultaneous, deadpan “what?” of both the second-in-command and the sympathetic regular guy I was ready for a commercial break.

The characters have as much depth to them as the hot young people trying to sell us beer and jeans in those commercial breaks. If this was a better story I would perhaps wonder why Stoppard has a bunch of friends that act like an ad executive’s idea of go-getting young people. After reading this book it makes perfect sense to me, he’s just as shallow a character as the rest of them. He spends most of his time reacting to being in over his head, in increasingly more and more grating ways, except when the story depends on him to act on his now oversized ego. Since the book doesn’t much work as a comedy there isn’t much of a surprise that it doesn’t much work as a romance either. The model Chantel and Stoppard fall in love for no other reason than they hang around on a fashion set a lot and of course the only conflict is that Stoppard’s ego drives her away. I can assure whoever is reading this review that you have a seen at least ten other stories very much like the one contained between the covers of this book.

F-Stop doesn’t much work as a satire; it’s far too interested in being a nice little story about a guy making his way as photographer. The problem is that the book falls short of even being able to do that by being horrifically typical. If Johnston and Loux wanted to achieve their goal they should have been a lot more ruthless in both their shots at the fashion industry and their quest in coming up with an original love story.

-- Ian Brill

Send review copies to:
Ian Brill
1608 Ocean Dr.
Oxnard, CA 93035

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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