SPX Pulls: Tricked, Alex Robinson / by Alex Jarvis

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  My hands are very cold. I am breathing heavily. My heart is full of sludge.

I just put down Alex Robinson's Tricked.

Tricked is 350 pages of one of the best comics I have ever read. It follows six characters, all of them in the periphery of, who is arguably the main character, fledging pop superstar Ray Beam. In this way, it is much closer to six individual comic books, each running the gamut of topics: the waitress who is tired of men, the traveling woman, the desperate man, the man who is slowly falling apart, the personal assistant, and the rock star. Their stories are all initially individual and completely unrelated, but small threads begin to form as each new character is introduced.

I'll admit that I wasn't a fan of this method at first. I grew attached to Ray Beam, and was confused when he was suddenly swapped out for a (seemingly) unrelated character. It was jarring, but I am very happy that I stuck it out.

There is a device that Robinson uses in each story--something I won't spoil here--that adds a level of existential dread to the entire affair. It's incredibly subtle, and an absolute horror as you continue with the story, as threads begin to pick up, as the characters begin to change and evolve. The characters are at the forefront here, in an absolutely masterful way; the way that the characters speak to the reader do almost as much to tell you about them as what they actually say. What of the man who speaks only in narration? What about the girl who needs eight word balloons to stammer out a line?

In writing that last sentence, I had a thought: I hope she's doing okay. She, in that sentence, was Caprice, the waitress in the story, the one who stammers. This should go miles towards showing you that Robinson has truly crafted each character tremendously. The characters feel real and complicated. I argued in my head against them as they made stupid decisions, empathized with their unexpected choices. There is real depth to each of them, increasing the emotional weight of the entire piece, making the device (mentioned above) that much more scary. Guys, I was all over the place.

The art is in black and white, and rightly so. Readers of the blog may know that I have an obsession with the use of panels in a story, and Robinson gives me the equivalent of top-notch cocaine in Tricked. The use of negative space, panel arrangement, patterened shapes to recall specific story elements, all of it culimating in a series of pictures in the final lap that embraced and comforted me through the emotional climax. I used the word masterful above, and I will use it again; the work was masterful, and without it, I would be in shambles. I appear to be in shambles as it is, but nevertheless.

Pick this book up, right now. Do not put it down until you see infinity.

TL;DR: Tricked is a masterpiece of storytelling. It features a cast of characters that are distinct and real, and offers an emotional experience that touched me deeply. Buy it.

Tricked is written by Alex Robinson and published by Top Shelf Productions. You can purchase it at Top Shelf, ask your local comic shop to order it for you, or you can pick it up from Amazon.