Written and Drawn by Alessandro Barbucci, Barbera Canepa | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Hardback, 232pp
As much as I love comic books, and after reading them for far too many years it’s just as well that I do, sometimes you can get just that little bit jaded and find too much ‘sameness’ in your monthly read. Sometimes you are looking for something a little bit different to appear, something that you may love or hate but something that stands out. Skydoll: Decade accomplished that for me. At first glance it looked a very cartoony style, and the two creators are former Disney animators, so I assumed an all-ages type publication. A closer inspection however revealed the cutesy art concealing a mature readers only book and two creators with an axe to grind. A heady cocktail indeed.
The book is a tricky one to summarise briefly, but essentially the story and characters operate on two levels. One is the actual story in front of us, involving the Sky Doll Noa, and her personal journey from being a (designed to be unthinking) android working for the state, deliberately sexualized in appearance as she washes cars, to someone developing self-awareness and escaping her sorry existence, all while getting mixed up in the conflict between the two arms of the universe ruling church. The two leaders are sisters. Ludovica represents ‘physical love’, Agape represents ‘spiritual’, and the conflict has seen Agape banished by her sister, who now runs the church as a glitzy, glamorous style but little substance organization. Agape’s followers still plot from the shadows, waiting for their time to come again.
This leads perfectly into the second level of storytelling here, which is this is a thinly veiled commentary on the workings of the Disney Corporation and the Catholic Church. The point the creators are making, through the fiction, is that both Disney and the Catholic Church are actually the same animal, in that they practice ‘the manipulation of the masses for lucrative gain’. Noa’s journey, from unthinking, compliant android to thinking for herself, choosing her own path despite what everyone around her believes, is a commentary on the individuality in our world, where control comes in different flavours (in this case, you may love religion or you may love fantasy entertainment) whether you realise it or not. Very interesting ideas, and very cleverly woven into the Skydoll story.
As I have written before, political/ social commentary only works in comic books if you do not bludgeon the reader over the head with it. Barbucci and Carnepa seem to realise that, as the themes feel more philosophical than social or political, yet still get you thinking about those issues the creators intended. Making a mixture of science fiction, religion and social commentary work is no easy feat, especially when you dress it up in bright animation style visuals. Throw in the fact that there is also a very entertaining character, world and story here and I really do take my hat off to the creators.
Skydoll is not a perfect creation though. Although the art is very nice to look at, quite a few panels are packed into each page and therefore some of the storytelling is packed together very densely, which for me upset the flow at times, and each page has a lot of text. Also, sometimes the cartoony art, which is usually fine, strays into being even more cartoony, and that lessened the enjoyment just a touch for me.
On balance, a book I could see finding a audience quite easily, it has the feel of a cult book about it. For me, one I admire for what it is attempting to do and how it is doing it, but not one I could say I really enjoyed as much as most others I read. Certainly worth checking out if you like something that little bit different.
Skydoll Vol.1: Decade is out now from Titan Comics