Cartoonist: Jacob Halton
Publisher: Self Published
WHAT IS IT?
In the back of a nightclub, mildly bombed and trying to enjoy himself despite the generic music, a young enthusiast is struck dumb by a song no one else seems to have heard.
All aboard Boké Expressway, a psychedelic and design-inspired story of one young man's obsessive week chasing a song.
Looking for half-melted galactic speedlines in comic book answers to explosive neon animations like Redline or Kickheart? Here's your boy.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Mikey's a bit of a music enthusiast, a bit of a user, and more than a bit still into trance. Seemingly in his twenties or thirties, this is the kinda guy who got heartbroken when Unicorn Kid never crossed over, which…fair enough, my lad. Sad day and all. One of his typical nights seems to be heading out to a club with his friends, going off by himself and failing to make new ones on the dance floor, while complaining about popular songs.
Then an incredible trance song blasts over the system, enchanting him instantly. But when he tries to find out what it was, no one knows what he's talking about. His friends and the DJ are equally clueless. The next few days are a blur as he blows everyone off to find it, fruitlessly.
Later he returns to the club, and ambles upstairs to hear them playing the same song, and sees an elusive woman in the crowd, singing along to the lyrics no one else has heard...
Its entire vibe. This is clearly a labor of love by someone who enjoys their image-making. Page after page, we see the creator's ambitious attempts to reach new personal highs.
Good page flow. After I finish reading a comic, I like to go through the pages quickly a few more times to take it all in. While the artist's main focus is on their graphic design influences, the overall effect is somewhat animated. This digital review copy makes me wish I had a physical copy so I could kick back and thumb the pages past like a flipbook. The visual elements leap and dart around from page to page, in various states of energy. It's nice.
Strategic Color Usage. It's nothing mindblowing – you have the magentas and electric blues usual for this kind of material – but with a dance music/club theme I was expecting lurid, maxed-out colors on every single page. I was wrong. The color baseline is somewhat desaturated, using gradiation and proximity to appear more vibrant. Then it'll turn up the color intensity when the artist wants to add weight. More or less of a fifty-fifty split on these fluctuations. An interesting approach was colors sampled directly from club photos.
Nice geometry. The artist's approach to three-dimensionality is the same as his approach to panel arrangement. They assemble everything with flat planes, warped and turned as needed. The artist is concerned with shape over form.
The Length. All art has flaws. This comic is no exception, but as an enjoyable one-shot with 65 story pages, it has a chance to breathe and overcome those flaws. Not so long that it overstays its welcome, not so short that its shortcomings are felt acutely – it's a respectable effort worth buying.
The afterward. Do you like Making-Of, Design, and Production fluff? I sure as hell do, and this book's got a great digestíf at the end with some basic strategic breakdowns and an artist's statement. I love that shit.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The portraiture is uneven. Character anatomy is mostly acceptable, but everyone has malleable muppet features that expand, squash, and shift around their heads and flatten out utterly when in three-quarters profile. It's not a stylistic choice, it is what it is. Full credit and respect, however, to the artist for striving to render heads rotating in a simulated three-dimensional space. I'll personally take this confidently honest approach any day over an artist who just recycles the same angles over and over in flatly safe, one-POV talking-head situations and says, "Oh well, it's indie... I can just half-ass it." This artist does not. Their confidence in attacking character poses lets them experiment successfully. Boké Expressway overcomes its portraiture shortcoming as a whole, and in certain moments, like on Page 17 (where the main character's face is rock-solid as he holds up a convincingly drawn hand, and we get an abstracted overlay of his mind's eye) everything synchronizes.
Background/incidental typography is far, far more considered than the dialogue type and bubbles.
The initial story hook leads into something less interesting. This may just be me, but going crazy over a half-heard song with which you immediately connected, then obsessing over it to the point where it takes over your entire week because you can't track the damn thing down? I relate to that deeply. Memory, personal experience, and obsession over something apparently banal is altogether a universal groove. You see it in everything from Victorian English ballads, to Japanese cartoons, to the spat between Proust and Samuel fuckin' Beckett. It's a touchstone across time and a good match for more mystical story elements. The conclusion to this story, however, the end of the line on this tantalizing head trip, veers hard into a Sexy-Magic-Metaphorical-Muse-Who-Bounces-Afterward-Like-Mary-Poppins kind of situation. Your opinion on this will vary.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Because new art isn't just worth collecting; it's cost-effective. Even if you personally decide not to buy Boké Expressway, you should buy indie books like Boké Expressway out of pure selfish satisfaction. This era of comics has me running around screaming "GREED IS GOOD!" unironically like some Gordon Gecko dickhead.
There's an ongoing list of forty-five to sixty expensive-ass comics and artbooks I want. I rarely buy any of them because I can pick up multiple neat smaller books like Boké Expressway, Carolyn C Nowack's Duh! Ha-Ha, a physical copy of Splendidland's Apple Quest Monsters DX, Euro goodness like Slavic Nihilism, a pile of zines, and a cheap French edition of the utterly insane The World Is Mine all for less than one of the fancy coffee table books, import costs included.
Boké Expressway epitomizes the eternal joy of digging through a pile of unknown comics for all the neat stuff you can find.
Yeah, we all want that new collected hardcover, but if that's the only sort of comic you buy? You're just depriving yourself like some starving ascetic. We're surrounded by random people doing stuff that's so Goddamned cool, and every greedy bastard has all the opportunity to grab and take armloads of all the art they want.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Instrumental by Dave Chisholm
Phonogram by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Jem And The Holograms: Dimensions by various creators
If you like the art:
Modification by Jacob Halton
Prism Stalker by Sloane Leong
Space Riders by Fabian Rangel Jr. & Alexis Ziritt
ABOUT THE CREATOR
Jacob Halton – Cartoonist
Multitalented: Jacob's website includes graphic design, sequential work, and current projects, but also showcases the work of collaborators. It has a dedicated "Let's Talk" button for commissions and collaborative ideas.
Jacob's accessible, which is a helpful and good thing in these trying times. They list social media and email in the back of the book, openly invite dialogue on their website, and work the convention circuit. I can't speak for Jacob, but there are obviously open paths for interaction and (positive, please) feedback.
The conceptual project itself can be followed via @bokeexpressway, though it hasn't been updated in a bit. The artist is hard at work on another comic attached to their patreon, but all signs point to a Boké Expressway volume 2.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Jacob Halton's characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Jacob Halton or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED