I don’t normally use this forum to review products, but I’m making an exception based on a tweet by Gordon McAlpin (@gmcalpin.) He was lamenting the number of review copies sent out of his recent book release of the first collection of strips for his webcomic Multiplex (www.multiplexcomic.com) The book is called Multiplex: Enjoy your Show.
I’ll get to a review of the book itself in a bit, but I want to give some background info first.
I don’t remember exactly how I found Multiplex, but I’m really glad I did. Because I found Multiplex, I also found Joe Loves Crappy Movies and Theater Hopper, two other webcomics that relate to movies. The three writers of those comics used to do a weekly movie review podcast, and even though it is now over, I still hold out hope for a revival, or at least a reunion show. Another only tangentially related fact to this discussion is that once McAlpin tweeted about playing Left 4 Dead online, and asked if anybody wanted to join him. I volunteered and we played a few games together. This is something that is awesome about the world we live in. I got to kill virtual zombies with the creator of one of my favorite webcomics ever. Yeah, Multiplex is one of my favorite comics, easily top three. I have been reading webcomics for seven or eight years now and whenever one of the creators would come out with a book, the frugal side of me popped up and said “why pay for something you can get for free on the internet?” Usually I listened. But when McAlpin announced he was setting up a kickstarter account for the first Multiplex book, it was only a matter of time before I jumped on. I won’t say exactly how much I contributed to the fund, but let’s just say it was enough to get the T-shirt. Multiplex is the kind of story that I wanted to have on the shelf next to Preacher, Fables and my other graphic novel collections.
I’ve often compared the comic strip to the movie Clerks, except set in a movie theater, and that might be a start, but it doesn’t nearly convey how awesome it is, or how much I like it. McAlpin has created an incredibly strong cast of characters in the world of his comic and that is by far the strongest draw.
The “lead dudes” as I’ve decided to call them are Jason and Kurt who start off the strip as box office jockeys and over the course of the series (a few years now) have risen to slightly more important positions. But their jobs are only a small part of who these characters are. Each character is well developed, and that extends from Kurt and Jason to their close friends to even the people standing in the background. He manages to tell some really interesting stories, while generally staying funny, and for the most part staying within the confines of the fictional movie theater. Readers who aren’t carful may start to think that all the stories about relationships (particularly Jason) make everything too soap-operaish, but I think McAlpin handles it all with a deft hand and an eye toward the funny.
The book itself is gorgeous. McAlpin creates the strip in Illustrator (I think) and so it has a really clean look to begin with, but everything looks even better on the printed page: colors, lines everything. It starts off with a 12 page prequel dealing with the release of Star Wars Episode III, which is some of McAlpin’s best work; you can really feel his enthusiasm for Star Wars shining through. This makes it only slightly jarring when you reach the first strips proper. Like most webcomics there was a growing period toward the beginning where McAlpin was finding his feet both in regards to writing and art. That being said, his style was still very clear early on, and there is a running commentary along with the strips where McAlpin points out flaws I didn’t even notice. But soon enough the book really gets going and it is easy enough to fly on through. Online the series is in its “fifth book” so getting back to where these characters were such a long time ago is really really fun, and because of the serial structure and that McAlpin doesn’t rely on ending each joke with a punchline (something more serial webcomics should do) reading them in a collection like this makes all the great things better. It’s worth mentioning that wile there isn’t aclear arc for the strips in this book, a lot of seeds are sewn for what happens later. McAlpin is really good at planning things ahead, so that once everything comes to a boil it’s nice to go back and see where everything came from. The rest of this paragraph has some minor spoilers so skip to the next paragraph to avoid them (which I recommended.) The stuff that eventually happens with Brian (first introduced as the asker of the dumbest question of the year: “All of a sudden it’s Fox News” (makes sense in context)) was super awesome what the conclusion.
Also sprinkled thoughout the book are bonus strips that were added because McAlpin didn’t initially pace the strips out with a print book in mind. He filled the blank space with new scenes that just further flesh out the world of the Multiplex 10 without seeming like filler.
Overall I highly recommend the book, even though this review started as a Take That to people who were jerky enough to request a review copy and not actually review the book. If you enjoy interesting characters in well told stories, Multiplex is worth a look.