by Michael Cho
Michael Cho is one of my favourite local artists. Two of his Toronto alley way pictures hang in my bedroom, and his art book Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes is a favourite of mine. I loved his short comic piece about the atomic bomb (I think it was in an issue of Taddle Creek magazine), and have bought novels on the strength of his covers. I was very excited to hear about Shoplifter, his new original graphic novel.
Shoplifter is centred on Corinna Park, a young woman who upon graduating with an English Literature degree, began working at an advertising firm. She's moved to the big city (I'm not sure which - at times it looks like New York, but isn't; there are a few pages that are recognizably Toronto though), took in a stray cat, and waited for her exciting new life to begin. A few years into this life, she's more than a little disillusioned, dissatisfied, and generally bored.
One of the few thrills left to her in life comes from shoplifting magazines from a local convenience store. She has a well-thought out system that never fails, although the momentary high does little to make her more satisfied with her choices.
Over the course of this book, Corinna makes a big mistake during a client meeting, and is now in danger of losing her job. Seeking solace in a party, where she meets an attractive photographer, doesn't do much to help her out.
Cho does a great job of portraying the modern condition. Everyone around Corinna is glued to small screen, and is increasingly cut off from real interaction. The isolation of modern city living is put on display, as is the existential angst it creates. Cho doesn't have much to say that is new, but this is a nice distillation of where we are right now as people.
Cho fills the book with incredible cityscapes, and portrays people quite expressively, using a minimum of lines. The book is shaded very effectively with only pink and black.
This book is a quick, but very rewarding read, and I hope it is the beginning of lots more comics work from Cho.