Today, I’ll be looking at the short series, Lackluster World, written and drawn by Eric Adams. The series comes in seven issues of varying lengths and they are available both in print, as eBooks and digital download.
The series revolves around the actions of one Fahrenheit Monahan, a cynical albino journalist who wants to wake up the denizens of the lackluster world around him. Fahrenheit is fervently anti-consumerist and atheist, but the closet people in his life are the opposite of these ideological stances. His siblings, Kelvin and Celsius are religious evangelists to the bone and his co-workers, such as a man named Cog, are only shallowly interested in the world around them. Fahrenheit becomes a street artist/vandal in order to communicate his ideas and criticize his community, but his actions end up starting a new cult of personality. As Fahrenheit garners more unwanted adulation, Kelvin becomes more convinced that he’s the devil himself, and Kelvin transforms into a violent antagonist.
The style of the comic has a nod toward Jhonen Vasquez and his television show, Invader Zim. The character designs for Fahrenheit and Kelvin share a lot in common with the angular head shapes and eyeball size. The tone of the series’ City setting also borrows from the modern-day dystopian horror of the Invader Zim setting, but the City is markedly less grungy and the building designs are less surreal. The comics may appear to be black and white at first, but it does have a wider color palette, and it’s very faint, which adds a lot to the tone of the series, since it shows that the dominance of black and white isn’t a limitation of printing and is instead deliberate.
Another series motif is the presence of white paint, the medium that Fahrenheit uses to express himself as a street artist. The best aspect is how the white color is always placed over either darkened areas, panel gutters or detailed areas of the frame composition. This likens the white paint to an erasure effect instead of just paint. Since the vandalism is used as a critique of the modern world, it makes sense that the surface area it covers erases a small portion of it. The ending of the series utilizes this in a memorable way.
The most relevant theme of the series is individualism versus groupthink. Religious ideology is criticized heavily, and cults of personality are looked at in the same light. Even if that cult of personality aggrandizes individuality as its core ideology. Kelvin symbolizes the groupthink of religious ideology and Fahrenheit’s un-asked for followers represent how even individuality can be marketed in a way that encourages lock-step thinking. Their sister Celsius represents the masses at large, easily swayed due to a need to fit in with her peers and loved ones.
One character, who most likely serves as the audience proxy, is named Cog. In beginning, he symbolizes just being another cog in the machine. As the story progresses, Cog finds himself questioning his lifestyle, and becomes Fahrenheit’s friend and work partner. Cog doesn’t come to any huge revelation by the end of the series, in fact, his role in the climax is downplayed, but he does serve as a catalyst for helping Fahrenheit come to his own conclusion about how to encourage individualism without giving way to the failings of his earlier attempts.
Lackluster World was a brisk and enjoyable read for me. I appreciated that dogma was addressed in a realistic manner, the surreal dream aspects of the plot and flashbacks were welcome additions to the plot and the artistic statements are concise. The whole series can be purchased for just over ten dollars through digital download and there are multiple purchase options on the comic’s website.