By Zack Quaintance — Bad Reception #1 asserts itself right away as an experimental comic (its form is very interesting) that also has a whole lot to say. A lot to say, specifically, about social media. This can, presumably, be attributed to the idiosyncratic and very talented creator Juan Doe doing pretty much all of the creating here himself. The writing, the art, the coloring, the lettering...Juan Doe does it all.
And as a result, there is a visceral coherence to this story and the way it is presented. Doe’s ideas hit in the page in interesting ways, unfiltered and audacious. The central thrust of Bad Reception #1 is that a famous couple—a singer/actress and a writer/thinker—are getting married in a secluded locale. Rather than turning it into a circa 2019 spectacle for social media, they are instead only inviting their absolute closest family and friends...requiring them all to put their phones in a safe for 24 hours. As the first pages quickly illustrate, something bloody transpires. Thus the title’s double meaning.
The main question from a review standpoint is probably: are the ideas about social media that underlie this whole deal new ideas? They are not. They are, however, ideas presented in an engaging way that are maybe building toward eventually saying something totally new about social media. It’s not clear yet. The ideas we get here, though, are largely along the lines of we use social media too much, we’re addicted to our phones, we’re missing out on the real authentic joys of life, etc. It’s stuff we need to hear more of in culture, to be sure, and it’s relatable stuff for anyone who’s ever been at a national park with their phone on their face at sunset before suddenly wondering, what the hell have I become? I’m anyone in that scenario.
The presentation of those familiar ideas is really artful, and the result is that the sum is greater than the parts. Doe is fearless in his graphic sequential storytelling here, using minimalism, alternating colored text boxes, series of sepia photographs, and the bottoms of his pages to tell a coherent and interesting character-driven story that remains visually fascinating throughout. It’s also a bit of mystery (why did that bloody thing hinted at in the early pages happen, anyway?), which all results in a book that I am curious to follow as it continues coming out. If that all sounds interesting to you, buy without reservation.
Overall: Familiar social media commentary is given new life by auteur Juan Doe’s fearless use of the graphic sequential storytelling form. And the mystery is intriguing. 8.0/10
Bad Reception #1
Writer/Artist/Colorist/Letterer: Juan Doe
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as Comics Bookcase.