I don’t even know what to say

Publisher: Image
Story & Art: Guillem March
Colour Assistant: Tony Lopez
Translation: Dan Christensen

We know that Karmen is a very pretty book. Here in issue #3 we also, like Cata start to learn the deeper themes going on. About life, death, reincarnation, second chances and the impact of tragedy. In other words we’re getting into some deep stuff here.

We also start to understand Karmen a bit more. We don’t get all the answers but one of her ‘colleagues’ Karmela (I see what you did there with the names) appears. Karmela seems to have a rivalry with Karmen who appear to have very different approaches to the dead people they have as their ‘missions’. There’s also reports and higher ups and the afterlife seems to involve a lot of administration aside from allowing dead people to fly about.

Cata seem to realise she is actually dead and seems to be struggling to understand this. As would any of us being told that there’s reincarnation and no immediate punishment for those people who cause tragedy. Cata is angry at that and angry at Karmen but there are more things for her to come terms with.

There are some really touching emotional scenes. She sees her room in her parents’ house from the balcony outside. She hadn’t talked to her parents recently and now she won’t get the chance. There’ a very poignant part of the art where we see a small panel with just the parent’s phone in it. A phone we know will shortly ring with news of Cata’s death.

The other emotional beats come from a man called Enrique who suffers tragedy on the happiest day of his life. His fate really underlines the unfairness that helps fuel Cata’s anger. Though you can’t help but wonder who Cata is angry at, the man who caused Enrique’s tragedy or herself for her selfishness? Is her reaction borne out of fear of the unknown, or of the fact everything that she perhaps assumed about death was wrong?

There are some really deep themes here but they are tackled sensitively and interestingly. The art really helps tell the story in this way. The angles, the way of looking at the world, reflecting the freedom and disorientation that Cata is feeling. The art goes up a notch when Cata gets flashbacks of people’s lives by touching or going through them. The sepia tones, the way the events spiral out and seem like old camera film, or just snapshots, pictures of a life is really clever and effective. 

The design of Karmela is a neat counterpoint too. Whereas Karmen is a skeleton Karmela’s design is black but with the circulatory system and the heart being prominent. There’s a nice symmetry to the way they each personify different parts of the body, and death.

The real gut punch is the ending as Cata has the final realisation of what she has done and she’s left adrift to deal with that. It sets up another reckoning for Cata in the next issue as her time is running out.

The book continues to be so, so pretty. The colours, the pinks and purples, the general aesthetics, the feel of the city and the emotions of the people are so well realised through the art. Karmen is tackling some really deep issues but man is it doing it in a really pretty way.

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