Graphic novel review: Comics review: Crowded (TP 3) by Sebela / Stein / Brandt / Farrell / Rae

(courtesy Image Comics)

Crowded TP 3 is a LOT.

And that, it has to be said at the outset, is a very, very, VERY good thing.

From the outlandishly bright and vivid colours of every panel to the characters who leap off the page so vivaciously and fulsomely realised are they to dialogues that zings and zips and sparkles with wit and some fairly intensely articulated emotions (no one does small emotions here, thank you), everything about Crowded TP 3 is alive with a storytelling fervour that’s pretty hard to ignore and incredibly easy to lose yourself in for the duration, and well after.

While there are a great many graphic novels out there with brio and presence, there’s something uniquely alive about Crowded TP 3 that feels like the best comedy-action thriller you’ve ever seen with the wattage turned up to 1000 and a momentum that is unceasing but heartfelt even so.

It has also retained and enlarged a fearsomely wonderful queer sensibility which is heartening for anyone who’s queer (like this reviewer) and who longs for a world where everyone is unapologetically, loudly and gloriously their authentic non-mainstream selves and where it’s expressed, albeit with some existential crises because these people are human after all, without any sense of reserve.

Honestly, you could say that about every last part of Crowded TP 3 which sees Charlie, still with a massive crowdfunded bounty on her head courtesy of an app called REAPR, and on the run from an assortment of killers, many of whom are everyday folk who need the windfall Charlie’s murder would provide.

It’s an outlandish premise that gives every single one of the characters – Charlie’s now fired bodyguard with whom she locked lips and more, her new protector Circe (who is actually one of the people after Charlie which is a little awkward given the role she now plays) and a Chihuahua named Dog or Doug depending on who you ask – a chance to outrageously shine and to express a LOT of emotions as they attempt to stop Charlie becoming app-driven roadkill.

Well, Vita anyway, and surprisingly Circe too who might possibly not be quite as apt to carry out her plan to off Charlie if things go a certain way – but what is that way precisely?

In the chaotic pell-mell of Crowded TP 3, it’s hard to say really and that is part of the fun; you truly have no idea much of the time exactly how events are going to play out and whether Charlie, who’s a thousand kinds of self-contradictorily self-sabotaging but ridiculously charming with it, is going to be able to get the shadowy group who are backing the campaign to drop their weird vendetta.

(courtesy Image Comics)

In the mad dash rush to the finish line of Crowded TP 3, just about everything is posisble.

Heart-to-hearts that are necessary but poorly timed – Charlie at one point tries to mend things with Vita, all but demanding they hash out their differences then and there, even though they are supposed to be planning the campaign to save Charlie from app-fuelled death – dog naming conundrums that probably shouldn’t be explored in the midst of a high speed chase and a showdown that is equal parts hilarious oversharing, revelatory WTF-ness and fairly but deceptively bloody where Circe has promised not to kill anyone (though maiming them rather dramatically is totally OK).

For all of its compellingly fun and artistically gorgeous, writ large OTT-ness, the reason why Crowded TP 3 is such a blast to read is because it places its characters, its deeply, richly and comprehensively fully-realised characters, are given the chance to be themselves and to talk and to explore how it is they got to the point where they are driving on assassination-choked roads to Washington D.C., with no guarantee anything they’re planning will pay off.

It’s this raw, chiselled back humanity, which is shared by all three main characters no matter how rough and tough they might seem on the outside – well, Vita and Circe are tough; Charlie, well Charlie, is adorably, charmingly, maddeningly a mess and one you will crave being in every panel (you’re lucky, she pretty much is) – which infuses the technicolour in-your-face artistry and storytelling of Crowded TP 3 with a beating heart so immense that you care very much about what happens to everyone.

Yes, even Dog … Doug … whatever he’s called.

That’s not always the case in any story that’s devoted to outlandish hilarity and bombastic silliness; they’re so busy rushing for the punchline, no matter how cleverly devised, that they forget to included people you actually give a damn about.

Crowded TP 3 does not even come close to making that mistake, giving us characters who, even among drone explosions, fighting acrobatics and blood splattering freeway massacres that may or may tramatise Charlie (OK, it totally does), have stuff to deal with and love to rekindle and happy-ever-afters to make (or as close as they can manage) and lives to lead.

They’re a riot to watch in action, a delight to spend time with, amusing to see in conversation, much of it done at speed or under pressure, making the words pop all the more, and part of story that thanks to stellar writing and eye-bursting colours and artwork, is so alive that you’ll go anywhere they lead.

If you want a story that races off the page with alacrity and wit and a heady sense of madcap hilarity, all peopled (and dogged) by characters that make you actually care about where the technicolour chaos will lead, then Crowded TP 3 is your read, a graphic novel that has it all, and likely more, and which in its unpredictable expansiveness, may just be the best thing to happen you in a long time.

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