Catalina is down bad. Her childhood best friend–and her crush–has friend-zoned her for other women, all the while maintaining their torturous friendship. But that torture can only last so long, and Cata begins to take drastic measures. That’s when the titular Karmen shows up.
Karmen is a mystery right away. She’s got the head (and attitude) of Pippi Longstocking and a see-through, skeletal body. Is she the Angel of Death? She likes to play up the Death angle, and speaking of play, Karmen persuades Cata that now is the perfect time to make the world a playground. Karmen covers up Cata’s razorblade tattoos, and the two set off on a nekked romp through a bustling Spanish metropolis. But how much time does Cata have?
Writer and artist Guillem March has given us quite the emotional whirlwind. The book starts off right away with some heavy metaphysical ponderings on dream-states and how those are triggered by certain memories or actions … and then we get a heavy dose of fart and poop jokes. The strength of this story lies within the characters, and Karmen is bawdy, spunky, chaotic, ambiguous, and infinitely likeable. Cata is a longing-yet-scorned woman who has committed the ultimate act of desperation, and her pain is transmitted into your soul by her bleary, mascara-stained eyes. This yin-and-yang pair of leads pulls at you through the whole journey of Cata’s baby steps into what could be her new state of existence.
If the characters don’t quite sell you, maybe the art will. March’s style evokes an Ice Cream Man-vibe that balances light humor and dark themes, just as the story does. Karmen’s design is strangely unique for how bare-bones it is (see what I did there?), and the facial expressions capture the mood in each panel perfectly. Some of my favorite moments include Karmen’s outbursts of boisterous and disrespectful laughter, but the cherry on top might be the two-page spread of our two leads making their way out of Cata’s apartment. Just be prepared for, uh, a lot of exposure to the characters. They aren’t hiding much, if at all.
If I had one major complaint about this book, it’s the abrupt ending. But my suspicion is that has to do with how we’re getting our hands on this book in the first place. The original graphic novel is in French, and since Image is going with the single-issue approach, we might be in for some jarring stops.
Karmen evokes the perfect mixture of child-like playfulness and bittersweet darkness à la Guillermo del Toro and Image’s Ice Cream Man. Fantastical artwork and complicated leads make this worth being a part of your universe.
Protagonist feeling all the feels9.0/10
Death Guide with the maturity of a 14-year-old9.0/10
Imaginative art that leaves nothing to the imagination10.0/10
Philosophical musings about dream states9.0/10
- Creator, Artist: Guillem March
- Translator: Dan Christensen
- Color Assistant: Tony López
- Publisher: Image Comics