SARAH HORROCKS – BRUISE (self-published, 2014)

From the cool blue risotone colour to the grey static hiss of the prose, Bruise is heavy on the cyberpunk stylings:

The comic itself follows up on that initial promise, coming on almost like a young William Gibson who’s got too lost in the poetry of his own thoughts to ever force them to fit a form as traditionally satisfying as a “novel”. Actually, scrap that “almost” and focus on the real novelty here, achieved through jagged collage of familiar tropes. Include the squinting cool of the front cover and the miraculous map of the back (as you must) in the run time and you’ve got one hell of a joyride here:

16 pages of bad road.

If I was a comics critic, I’d take my cue to explain how this metaphor is grounded in the physically reality of the book, a clever reflection of the the reality of ink on the page.  I’m not a comics critic though, I’m an even less reputable creature: a passenger who thinks he’s, well, if not a co-pilot then at the very least a navigator.  Garbled similes and strained conceptual connections are about the best I’ve got to offer in terms of understanding where this comic takes you and how you get there.  “The way it seemed to me at the time” is the best I can do for you, now as always.

From the first image and the first line of dialogue onward, Sarah Horrocks leaves us in no doubt that speed is essence here: “Remember Raster, for Yuri to avoid assimilation by the Net Global construct… you need to maintain a speed of at least 200 tetrasecs per hour.” Is that car on the cover in motion or is it just posed as though it should be?

Speaking of assimilation, images and chronologies in this comic come pre-blurred, to the extent that – as Claire Napier has already argued– the first time reader would be well-warned to “Attend the wake” and “concentrate on the visible consequences of whatever happened” rather than worrying about what they might not have understood.

And so, the distinction between the parties involved in the opening blowjob scene is skewed by harsh intersection of line and colour, and the deployment of countermeasures during the frantic chase itself creates a pile-up in space that looks like it might as well be a pile-up in time; commentary jags in from the wrong panels; some version of time happens as a city is “hacked”. Bruise is a comic that is racing towards a sublime goal that is seemingly unreadable, impervious to assimilation, by you, me, or anyone else.  All we’re left with is a map, a fragment of the journey on the way to who knows where.

In the end, then? Pretty close to the perfect anarchic alt comics experience.

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