Look, a comic from Top Shelf! Hey, I just got that name!*
* No, I didn’t. I may be obtuse, but I’m not a complete idiot.
Will Dinski has sent me his comics in the past – I reviewed them here and here, but now that he’s written something for Top Shelf, I have to spend money for it like a sucker! But hey – Dinski’s work is interesting, so I was more than willing to pony up $14.95 for his latest comic, Fingerprints.
As you can see from the scans, Dinski has an unusual style – he draws panels and places full panels of dialogue directly next to the panels with drawings. Very rarely does he put word balloons directly inside the panels. It’s an interesting way to tell and read the comic – it distances us from the drawings a bit, because it’s almost like we’re watching a silent movie with a card added in between scenes, and Dinski seems to want it that way. His comics are about people who who are vaguely unsavory, and it’s almost as if he wants to buffer us from them, because bringing them too close to us would cause us to either sympathize or abhor them. Fingerprints is very much an absurdist comedy that encourages a certain level of smug superiority on the part of the readers (mainly so Dinski can subvert it a bit as he goes along), so it seems that Dinski does not want us to view the characters too much as human beings … until he wants us to. I could be completely off base here, but it’s a neat technique to creating a comic, no matter what his motives are.
Fingerprints is about plastic surgery. Dr. Fingers, a very successful surgeon in Hollywood, hobnobs with actors – Casey Kansas and Vanessa Zimba – and works his magic. He’s becoming more and more estranged from his wife, who is of course getting older. His assistant, Yumiko, wants to go out on her own. So there’s this stew of emotions and motives as Dr. Fingers meets with Casey and Vanessa, who pretend to be dating (Casey’s gay but not out), then goes to a party that all the principals attend, then Yumiko sets up her own clinic and undercuts Dr. Fingers in a very strange way. Dinski is obvious with his criticism of plastic surgery and the society that holds the beautiful people up as idols, but that’s kind of the point, as Dinski keeps pushing the book into more and more surreal territory. Early on, Dr. Fingers muses about his work – he claims that a woman’s look is crucial for her success in life, and Dinski does nothing to disprove that (neither does our society, of course). He’s cruel to his wife because she’s getting older, but he can’t even enjoy Vanessa’s “perfect” face because he keeps seeing imperfections in it. Dinski keeps upping the ante in this regard – when Yumiko opens her clinic, the story goes completely absurd, as she gives her clients pre-fab faces with no surgery. It all comes crashing down in the end, of course, in as ironic as way as possible. Dr. Fingers begins the understand the horrors of what he’s doing, and Dinski does a nice job with the black humor of it all. There’s nothing subtle about the way he reaches his conclusion, but it’s still a good way to get there.
It’s difficult to write too much about Fingerprints, because there’s not much in the way of a plot and Dinski has a very narrow focus on the theme. He’s making the case that plastic surgery is bad for us as a society because it dehumanizes us all, which is brought home in the final image, which is both funny and chilling. Even as Dr. Fingers and the others realize what is happening, they can’t escape the way they view the world, and it comes back to haunt them. Fingerprints is an odd, almost surreal comic, and Dinski does a good job establishing the characters and the theme before taking us to a very weird extreme. While the argument of the book is obvious, Dinski’s dark humor keeps everything zipping along until he gets to the absolutely wild ending. Dinski keeps showing that he has a lot of talent, and I look forward to seeing his work evolve.
Tomorrow: Will I eat my words? Stay tuned!