Cartoonist: Richard Santiago II
Publisher: Bomb Bomb Comics
WHAT IS IT?
Purely Fictional is a trippy thriller drawn entirely in black and white. A comic artist goes on a drug-induced adventure after leaving his job in an explosive manner.
Imagine if Trainspotting were shot by a surrealist, with the shape and form of everything and everyone constantly shifting.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
21-year-old Evol is having a disagreement with his boss. The two exchange some choice words before Evol concludes both the row and his employment by tossing a cigarette onto what is presumably gasoline, setting off an explosion.
Evol flees the scene and plans to meet up with his girlfriend, Glow, and her friends who are at a local bar. Before Evol arrives, Glow's friends offer her tickets to a concert by Glow’s favorite band, on one condition: Glow must drug Evol with a powerful hallucinogen called Crush. If Evol can last the night without freaking out, the tickets belong to Glow.
Purely Fictional deals with the nature of consequences. From Evol’s choice to demolish his workplace to the actions surrounding Crush, every choice has a consequence in this world...or does it?
The central tensions of Purely Fictional are fascinating - will Glow drug Evol? What does Crush do? Will the police catch Evol for the explosion?
The characters, while quite generic, remain consistent throughout the book.
There are some eye-catching visuals near the end of the comic that use Santiago’s warped sense of reality in the comic to its fullest.
Santiago’s choice to only work in black and white adds a sense of clarity and bleakness that fits well within the themes and tone of the book.
As the sole creator of the comic, Santiago clearly planned out space for his dialog balloons, and this helps the comic flow.
There are no wasted panels here - Santiago writes economically. He sets up the premise, gets to the point, and wraps it up.
The ending of the comic ties together aspects of the book that seemed disconnected. It is far from a perfect ending, but it is a unique one.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
First off, content warnings: there are depictions of smoking and alcohol consumption in Purely Fictional, and a core event of the book is the potential non-consensual drugging of the main character.
While Santiago’s visual style is interesting, his renderings of characters is quite inconsistent, which can lead to some confusion about who is doing what.
The dialogue is incredibly stilted. Characters feel like they’re reading from a script – a poorly-written one. This isn’t helped by the fact that the lettering contains a number of grammatical errors and inconsistencies.
There are a couple of moments where the panel layout stops the momentum of the book in its tracks. It is confusing which panel comes next, and the reader has to stop and figure it out before moving on.
There are distinct divisions between the six parts of the book that feel completely unnecessary. In a longer book, dividing up into chapters helps set the tone for each scene. Purely Fictional is only 24 pages long, and the large chapter breaks do little more than break the flow of the book.
There is very little set-up for the ending of the book. While it is interesting, as mentioned above, it doesn’t quite feel earned.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Purely Fictional is a singular vision Richard Santiago II. The monochromatic art style is striking and is the main strength of the book as a whole. Santiago gives a snapshot into the most critical night of Evol’s young life, and doesn’t waste the reader’s time. It is a brief glimpse into what might happen if those around you sought to see you in mental agony.
Santiago’s writing has a good deal of room to grow, but Purely Fictional shows that he has an active imagination and isn’t afraid to share it with the world.
If you like supporting auteur creators with a lot of promise, give Purely Fictional a shot.
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