Written By: Marcus Doidge
Pencils By: Marcus Doidge
Publisher: Self Published
I was recently lucky enough to receive a copy of Leave, a brand new graphic novel written by What Culture writer Marcus Doidge, and am now kicking myself for taking two weeks or more to get around to reading it. First off, if you've ever seen the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, imagine that same scenario happening to someone in their twenties at a rubbish office job. Got that in your head? Good.
The first thing that occurs to me when looking at the work, is that it's got the rough edges and raw unrefined stumbling of a neophyte who has learned the craft well enough to show his wares to the world, but is not yet a master. While being of a different style and flavor, Doidge's work reminds of the way Steve Dillion's characters in Preacher look and feel wonky in the early issues compared to the streamlined and simplified approach he took on in the stuff that got collected into the second volume onward. This isn't to say that I don't like the way things look, so much as saying I look forward to seeing him get even better.
Next up on the docket is the soundtrack. If you're scratching you're head, that's because most comics don't have a soundtrack. I can only think of two examples I've actually seen do it off the top of my head (The first one being Saint Sinner, the second one I don't recall the name of if you were wondering). It's a really effective trick where the writer tells you what song to listen to during a given scene that can really shape the way a story feels. What's even better is that Leave uses what I think of as an organic soundtrack. Look the at the 2004 version of The Punisher to see a pitch perfect example of what I mean. every time a radio friendly pop/rock song plays, there's something on screen to explain why it's happening. A radio, a car stereo or a guy playing a guitar in a scene makes the song feel like an integrated part of the world instead "hey this is like a music video" moments that a lot of movies have. Speaking of movies...
It's obvious to see that Doidge is already thinking of what a movie version of Leave would look like if it ever got optioned. A lot of the scenes even have a shifting focus with foreground and background getting blurred or sharpened as they're brought into focus. This is one of the things in modern comics that really grinds my gears, along with the past decade plus worth of shunning thought balloons like the plague. In trying to feel more 'cinematic' I think a lot of comics writers and artist are losing site of what makes the comics medium unique and precious unto itself. The movie baiting tactics that comic artist use can kill off some of the wonder and mess up the flow. It happens more than a few times in Leave. I really hope Doidge out grows this tendency or at least learns to temper it in his further work, because his art is at it's best when it feels less like a story board and more like a comic book.
Getting back to the plot, Leave is a nice subversion of the Ferris Bueller concept. By applying it to the soul crushing grind of the work a day world where skipping out has bigger consequences the story takes on a tone that a high school movie can't emulate. It also breaks down how the fantasized 'perfect day' rarely ever works out the way one would want it to. There's even a recurring line about one character wanting an 'imperfect perfect day'.The cast of characters is kept to a nice minimum. There's Warwick, the 'Cameronesque' do the right thing guy, who gets offered to ditch work by his best friend Dave, who feels like Ferris Bueller's even doppleganger. After a quick bit of fellow office drones and a bitch manager pulling some bullshit Warwick decides he's had enough and takes up Dave's offer. From there a third friend in the form of younger, dorkier James is summoned into the plan and Dave's co-worker Claire ends up getting thrown into the mix when she catches them leaving. Past this point, the quartet of lollygaggers are the only ones in the spot light for the remainder of the story. This keeps things flowing in a smooth clip for the rest of the tale.
The part where Marcus Doidge really shrines brightest in this story is as a writer who knows how to make fleshed out characters that feel like real people. Warwick and Dave argue like buddies who've known each other long enough to sometimes get sick of one another. James comes off as the type or worry wort that most of know in real life, who are always fussing over minor things. Claire presents one of the more rounded and believable women in a story I've read in awhile. She chooses to skip out of work on a lark and proceeds to playfully mess around with the guys in a manner that feels honest and sincere.
If you like down to earth indie comics that feel rough around the edges, go pick up Leave. You'll be doing yourself a favor by getting a chance to someday tell people "yeah I remember reading Marcus Doidges early stuff, and it's no surprise he's at this level now."
Be sure to check out the Leave Facebook page and 'Like' for updates and future projects.