Hmm, so when’s the last time I reviewed something for you that you could score absolutely free and in an instant?. Sadly, it’s been a while. I think the last time was back in June, when I told you to read webcomic-turned-printed-book, BAYOU, quick like a bunny. Well, just in time for those looking for a way in to the literary graphic novel world, here are my thoughts on DICEBOX, a 289-page webcomic by Jenn Manley Lee.
Why I Decided To Read It: Well, i09 gave this webcomic a pretty fantastic review. And i09, unlike a lot of other nerd sites, gave WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okorafor and THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin the love they deserved, so I’m all about taking recommendations from i09.
What It’s About: If you’re a fan of one of my favorite graphic novel series of all time, STRANGERS IN PARADISE, then this is kind of like that if STRANGERS IN PARADISE was set in the future, and about to migrant workers, and involved a black woman who’s very comfortable with her sexuality, and if Katchoo had looked like David Bowie as opposed to like Katchoo. Okay, on second thought, this is nothing like STRANGERS IN PARADISE. But if you liked STRANGERS IN PARADISE, you will absolutely love DICEBOX.
What Makes It Different: I cannot stress enough how awesome and wonderfully complex the black main character, Molly is in this. She reminds me of a thick-waisted Shug Avery — if Shug Avery had really scary Cassandra-like visions.
What I Loved: You know how you often read stuff about the future and it’s full of slick gadgets and totalitarian governments and alien enemies, but somehow the interpersonal relationships remain the same as the interpersonal relationships found in lit set during current times. This ain’t that kind of book. This felt like reading about the future of marriage and sex in our universe, and let me tell you, the future is extremely intriguing. Also, I loved the main-main character, Griffen, an enigmatic rock star of a nut job, who makes for very compelling reading. In fact let me warn you right now that this graphic novel is a terrible page-turner. Do not start reading it if you have plans are anything like that, because after the first couple of chapters it will hold you in a thrall and not let you go. I found this out the hard way last Saturday, and would like to apologize to my fam who I neglected horribly to finish reading this graphic novel in three sittings.
What I Didn’t Like: I had one burning question that never got answered, but I can’t discuss it without spoilers. But this small disappointment wasn’t big enough that I wouldn’t whole-heartedly recommend this webcomic to others.
Writing Lessons Learned:
Reveal Answers as M&Ms as opposed to dessert. One of the things that makes this graphic novel so delightful is that every single thing is a question from page one. And the majority of the questions are answered casually and without warning, so you really have to pay attention. I tried skimming like once, and got confused rather quickly. It made me think about how compelling it is to dish out answers throughout the text in small pieces as opposed to at the end. Reading this graphic novel was a very delicious experience, and it really gave me something to think about as a writer.
Focus on anything but the gadgets. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the things the books implies about future sexuality. It’s seriously on a whole nother level, and it’s made me a little disenchanted with regular sci-fi now. I wonder why so many TV shows insist on focusing on the gadgets, aliens, and politics as opposed to really exploring class, sexuality, and other topics that have yet to be done to death in sci-fi. DICEBOX makes BATTLESTAR GALACTICA look really, really vanilla. Yes, seriously.
Regular folks are just as beautiful and compelling as pretty ones — if not more so. I just loved that these characters were representative of what real folks look like, rather than just the pretty ones. I loved that Molly is able to pull tons of sex partners without looking like Halle Berry, because in real life women are able to pull tons of sex partners without looking like Halle Berry. I especially love that we can tell how old Griffin is and that the characters have things you almost never see in graphic novels or movies like sagging breasts and ugly clothes. I’d really be interested to see more writers portray the beauty of verite.
To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Fans of British Television; Dr. Miro; Blue-Staters; Human Sexuality Majors; Bisexuals; & BFFs
Click on the pic to read the graphic novel!