Who needs humor? Or characters?

Doesn’t it totally blow your mind to see something not John Cusack re-acting a famous John Cusack moment?

About a year ago I went to a small, local comic book show and picked up several trade paperbacks relatively cheap.  I’ve finally gotten around to reading a couple of them. One of those was the first volume of The Li’l Depressed Boy, and boy, does it ever suck!

I didn’t like Scott Pilgrim. After years of hearing about how brilliant it was I finally gave in and read the first volume, only to suffer through a book of thoroughly unlikable characters (either because they were complete pricks, like the title character, or they seemed to be so “calculated” to be kewl as to be unrelatable) and humor that consisted almost entirely of pop-culture references from the 80’s and 90’s.  Although, in hindsight, much of it wasn’t even humor; it was just that the characters didn’t seem to be capable of communicating in ways that didn’t consist entirely of references and quotes.  Imagine a work of fiction where every character was the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin. It was like those parody movies (Epic Movie, Date Movie, etc.) from the aughts, but in comic form (okay, I’ll give Scott Pilgrim credit that it wasn’t as bad as those movies.)

But The Li’l Depressed Boy?  It’s like whoever made this series saw Scott Pilgrim and decided to parody that.  We have characters with no semblance of character; some aspire to be cliche.  At the end of this volume I have no real understanding of any of them.  Let me summarize what happened in this first volume.  I’m going to make it sound much better than it really was:

  1. Li’l Depressed Boy (LDB) is depressed.  It’s never stated why.  There’s some indication later on that he might suffer from some kind of social anxiety disorder, but whatever.
  2. LDB goes out with one of his friends (maybe his only friend?)
  3. On a  chance encounter he meets a manic pixie dreamgirl (MPDG) who introduces herself by spouting references to early 90’s video games.  We know she’s awesome because she has tattooes and piercings! 
  4. LDB meets MPDG at a laundromat.  She continues to be awesome because she makes more pop-culture references and does weird things like sniff LDB’s laundry sheet!
  5. LDB and MPDG talk about bands! Cuz’ all the kewl kids talk about bands! They go to a concert.
  6. Oh noes! Like a sitcom, LDB realizes he’s been out with this girl and doesn’t know her name! I sense hilarity coming.
  7. Oh, no, not hilarity.  Just more zaniness from MPDG and pop-culture references! They get kicked out of a bowling alley because LDB acted like he was in a video game! HOW WACKY!!
  8. MPDG throws a party for no reason! She’s so unpredictable and AWESOME!
  9. At the party LDB meets MPDG’s roommate, who talks about how he doesn’t like hipsters.  That proves to us that this isn’t a hipster comic, because they wouldn’t slam hipsters in it if it was!  This work isn’t derivative at all.  Uh-oh, the cops have busted up the party for being too loud and AWESOME, because that’s what always happens in movies.
  10. LDB and MPDG go on another date.  She mentions how her roommate is actually her boyfriend.  CLIFFHANGER! Time to buy the next volume to see how this mind-blowing turn of events plays out!

Unlike Scott Pilgrim I went into this was no expectations put onto me as I hadn’t seen any discussion about this series online.  Based on the cover, I was  expecting something a little more … depressed.   The stylistic choice of having the title character represented by this kind of voodoo doll caricature while others were drawn more realistically made me think it would use his cartoony look to really express his detachment from the world around him.  Instead it just seemed like a weird stylistic choice as the story was just a bog-standard romantic “comedy” that never made use of the unique representation for the main character.  Shit, I didn’t think the character would actually be named “Li’l Depressed Boy” (as in that’s how everyone addresses him.) I suppose one could argue that  the writer did this to show how, in the main character’s mind, this is how people view him … but based on the rest of the writing on display here I can’t imagine the writer could have done that unless it was a writing technique displayed in a SNES game

Apparently I stand alone in my dislike for this book, too.  After having such a negative reaction to the work I went online to see if it was well-reviewed (maybe I could have been warned against wasting money on this book.)  As it turned out I couldn’t find any negative commentary on this series.  People seem to consider it rather good.  I honestly can’t see why.  I guess, like Scott Pilgrim, it’s just not meant for me.

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