‘Exquisite Corpse:’ Advance Hardcover Review

Twenty-two-year-old Zoe is on the fast track to a dead-end life. She has no goals or aspirations, her relationship with her boyfriend is on the skids, and she seems doomed to continue as a professional booth babe until she ages out of the industry. One day, as she struggles to find meaning in her mundane life, she spies a stranger watching her from behind the curtains of his apartment window. Zoe barges her way into Thomas Rocher’s life, never realizing that she’s discovered the scandal of the century: Rocher’s allegedly been dead since 2008! Penelope Bagieu’s Exquisite Corpse explores how far some writers will go for fame and how obsession with your craft affects those around you. As if that weren’t enough, Bagieu throws in a hearty dose of relationship drama that kept me reading until the final page.

My idea of the plot of Exquisite Corpse and the reality were far different; I anticipated Thomas Rocher as a wizened old man hiding from the world to avoid being seen in a decrepit state, who rejuvenates through the friendship with a young girl. Zoe is definitely young, but the story’s Rocher is only old enough to wonder what he gets from a twenty-two year old beyond passionate sex. Truthfully, neither Zoe nor Thomas are overly likeable people; however, my impressions of which one was less sympathetic ebbed and flowed over the course of the graphic novel. I drifted between feeling Zoe used Thomas to escape her drab life and unromantic boyfriend and sensing an imbalance in what the writer drew from his life with the twenty-something. By the end, I was firmly on Team Zoe, and while I wouldn’t call her a good person, I think both parties got what they deserved.

Bagieu’s art style is simple, but it works to transport me to Zoe’s life in France. Little details like Zoe’s freckles and the wrought iron work outside Thomas’ window add a slice-of-life flavor to a slightly larger-than-life tale. The colors are similarly simple, although it’s striking how the colors gradually change as Zoe becomes more of a fixture in Thomas’ life. (In their first meeting, Zoe is wearing bright red while Thomas is in grey; over time, the colors for both become stronger and bolder.) It’s an obvious way to demonstrate how Zoe symbolizes the outside world for Thomas and how her presence alters his safe, reclusive world.

Exquisite Corpse will not appeal to everyone due to its slower-paced story, but it’s an intriguing addition to the American graphic novel scene. Even when I was frustrated by one or both of the main characters, I needed to know the outcome of their story. Besides, how often will you get the chance to read an excellent English translation of a French graphic novel? And, trust me, the ending will not be anything you expect!


4.5 Elaborate Fake Funerals out of 5

Jodi Scaife, Fanbase Press Social Media Strategist

Mid-30s geek type with a houseful of pets, books, DVDs, CDs, and manga

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