Lydia: Lose The Red Stapler / by David Anderson


Anyone remember that thing that happened in 2008? Something where the economy kind of swallowed its own face and everyone realized that 19th century Rationalism was an awful way to run a market economy? Alan Greenspan converting to the religion of Common Sense on the same day passersby claimed to witness an Ayn Rand statue crying blood? Lydia is a product of all that, I think. It's an office comedy rooted in the corporate mindset we all saw parodied in Office Space, with a side dish of the subconscious tension we all carry knowing that our jobs are always hanging by a thread. Just look at the way our protagonist Lydia is treated by her superiors at her new job- her boss demands reports on projects she hasn't even been assigned yet, while her boss's boss parades around in a cape and crown in between sessions of rampant office sex. Okay, he only does the cape thing once. Point is, it's the kind of place where middle and upper management get to goof off while the peons get punished for not fulfilling superhuman objectives- something that's not too far from the realm of reality in many cases.

This book is a compendium of work done by Kevin Church and Max Riffner, and it's an offshoot of a webcomic called The Rack, using a side character as its main one. The first half of the book is a collection of mostly four-panel strips detailing a setup/punchline involving Lydia getting used to her new job, while the second half of the book is a story about the boss's birthday party. While the first half does have a general direction from beginning to end, it's mostly a lot of isolated one-to-two page stories about Lydia getting to know her cohorts and argue with her boss, and generally critique the modern American office.

I've never read anything about The Rack, so I'm judging this book based on its own merits- still, it's easier to understand this work if you've read the former, because there are details migrating between the two that can confuse you if you don't know the characters from the main comic. The comedy is all right. I never found myself laughing out loud, but there was a satisfaction to be found in watching personalities clash.

Lydia's character is the most developed and most interesting, as she come into her job knowing full well the awful properties of the ticket she just bought. Still, she slogs through it like a champ, and she's not afraid to cuss out her boss. Other characters don't get nearly as much development, but a few do manage to squeeze enough face time in to show some uniqueness. Then again the comic isn't named after any of the other characters either. The dialogue feels natural, so characters feel like actual people and not robots. And while making fun of cheesy office manager Newspeak is well rehearsed by plenty of comedians, Church does a great job of making those authority figures sound extra irksome.

The art is great. They're real nice, simple details done in smooth, thick black lines, so everything looks nice and clean. The thing is, I don't feel like Riffner takes full advantage of his style until the second half, because the first chapter has a lot of talking heads for shots and not a lot else. That's just a limitation of the panel layout, I suppose. In the second half, he gets more adventurous and has more dynamic panels, poses and viewing angles, so we get to see characters get more expressive with their bodies and such.  Overall I like this style. It's easy on the eyes, and you can tell a lot about a character just by their design. Its only limitation comes from the amount of space it's allowed to work with.

It's a little bumpy, but it's okay. I think I liked the characters more than the office comedy stuff, though that did serve to make the characters more likeable. And considering this IS an offshoot, liking the characters more than the setting probably speaks to the strength of the The Rack. But again, I didn't read that. Would I recommend it? I guess that depends on the price and whether you're a fan of The Rack. If you like that comic, then you'll enjoy this. If you've never heard of it, then it might have a hard time distinguishing itself, but it will still be an agreeable read.

TL;DR: Lydia by itself is not too special in spite of its good art, but fans of The Rack will like seeing a side character get her own spotlight to stomp around under.

Lydia is written by Kevin Church and illustrated by Max Riffner, and is published under Agreeable Comics. You can buy a digital copy , print or PDF and read the source material, The Rack, on the Agreeable Comics website.

A review PDF of Lydia was graciously provided to Spandexless by the creator.