Written by: Neil Gibson
Line Art by: Leonardo Gonzalez
Color Art by: Jan Wijhgaard
Lettered by: Jim Campbell
Published by: T Pub
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
Note: Unfortunately the publishers of Theatrics did not provide me with any links on how readers could purchase Theatrics. Because I liked the book so much I decided to publish my review anyway. you can find many of this indie publisher’s books by clicking here.
The time is 1920’s America. Moving picture shows were just making their mark but theatrical actors still maintained a certain stardom of their own in certain cities. Rudy Burns is one such actor. He’s handsome and successful and he’s a star on Broadway known for playing leading man roles. He’s the toast of the town and his ego basks in the glory of his moment of success. He’s cocky because of his status in the theatrical scene and believes the world is his oyster. As the old song goes, happy days are here again for Rudy Burns and there’s nothing that can stop his star from rising.
Until one fateful evening after a night out on the town at his local speakeasy Burns is viciously assaulted by a gang of thugs. Rudy attempts to fight back but his resistance is futile. He is beaten within an inch of his life and in the course of this beating his face is horribly deformed. Because of this his rising star crashes and crashes hard. Rudy loses everything. He is shattered. Being that his profession is one that is so tied up in his appearance offers for acting work dry up. Before long it’s not only his appearance that’s left destroyed but any sense of dignity as well. Rudy Burns is a shell of what he was before, a victim of not only the thugs that disfigured him but of a society that isn’t enlightened enough to see any value beyond his appearance.
I have to admit that while I was reading this comic, at this point in the story I expected it to take a somewhat predictable turn of events. The beginning of this comic mirrors everything from Phantom of the Opera, to The Face Behind the Mask, to the origin of Doctor Doom. But as the story goes on it takes a very different and very unexpected detour. Instead of becoming a tale about bitterness, vengeance and villany, Theatrics becomes something else. Something wonderful and heartfelt.
Writer Neil Gibson very deftly plays with the assumptions that comic book readers will make while reading this book. I won’t reveal what happens during the rest of the story but I will say that for readers like myself who have been reading comics a long time, Theatrics is a story that will surprise you. It doesn’t play into the typical “wronged and disfigured protagonist” narrative. It becomes something hopeful…a story of redemption and friendship and loyalty. Theatrics is the best surprise I’ve had reading a comic book in a long time.
The art in Theatrics is top notch. The combination of artist Leonardo Gonzalez and colorist Jan Wijhgaard is terrific. Gonzalez’s art is detailed and energetic. His panel construction is terrific and his storytelling ability is spot on. I loved his figure renderings and his ability to make facial expressions dynamic and demonstrative. Wijhgaard’s colors help make the book come to life. Wijhgaard used hues sensitively throughout the book balancing shades of the same color to play with the emotional impact of the story. As great as this book’s story is, it’s art is just as enjoyable to take in. Gonzales and Wijhgaard make a great artistic team.
Theatrics ended up being a very welcome comic book read for me. With all of the horrible news out there in the world today I was more than pleased to come across this earnest and wonderfully told story. The ending did leave me wanting a bit but the comic was such a great read with a resolution so filled hope and optimism that I can’t help but give it my highest recommendation. Track it down if you can, you won’t regret it.