Story & Art: Guillem March
Colour Assistant: Tony Lopez
Translation: Dan Christensen
Before I start this final review of Karmen I feel the need to preface this with a personal note. Do feel free to skip.
A few months ago I lost a family member. It wasn’t entirely unexpected but that never makes it easier. I never got to say a proper goodbye. Needless to say, the themes surrounding death in Karmen have affected me personally in the last few months. However, it’s been a huge help when dealing with grief to have a book like this. I have taken a lot of comfort from reading Karmen and as a result I’ve loved it on a personal level that I don’t think I would have otherwise.
Now onto the review proper.
This is the final issue of Karmen and I guess the question is does this stick the landing? Yes, yes it does. Absolutely. This is the culmination of everything that has happened before and this is the most satisfying ending it could have been. Honestly if your heart isn’t pounding as you turn the pages and you don’t end up crying by the end you have a heart of stone.
We started in issue one with some existential thoughts and here those thoughts come full circle as the nature of how death and souls work comes full circle. There is a lot of quite heavy stuff with the themes here but as it unfolds it also just makes sense and suddenly the puzzle pieces of everything that has happened fit so neatly into place. Everything just comes together so beautifully.
In doing so there’s hope in a way that there’s never been before. That alone just really impacts everything. Death has never quite been Karmen’s endgame; she’s been dealing with some more serious metaphysical concepts.
We finally find out what those concepts are as her co-workers look at Karmen’s past case files. Throughout the series when we’ve seen them they have derided Karmen’s methods, they have not believed in what Karmen is doing but now there’s a real reckoning as they lay out for us and them the real impact and meaning of what Karmen does.
We see how the soul is judged but there is far more to it than we could ever have thought. The talk of souls, reincarnation and the way everything is weighed up is really very deep stuff and even veers into quantum physics. But the way the revelations unfold is like unfolding a paper aeroplane and realising how it’s made.
I don’t want to spoil too much because the emotional impact really is in reading this for yourself. Needless to say we see that everything Cata has experienced comes into play in this last issue. From the phone call Xisco is making, to her lazy flatmate, to her neighbour with the cats, the phone call to her parents, and to the man killed in the hit and run whom she met. It’s wonderful to see all these different aspects of her journey all play their part in the conclusion.
By the end we finally get to know what Cata was thinking when she slit her wrists. Her actions were a cry for help and there’s a chance here that her cries will be answered. There is so much tension in seeing the outcome of a series of coincidences, as Karmen tells us and Cata’s body the odds of her success or failure in killing herself.
Yes this is still Cata’s story but let’s not leave off Karmen who is still instrumental. She’s been Cata’s guide and she becomes ours too. She’s the one that gives us hope. The real goal for Karmen is the moment she’s not needed any more elsewhere her co-workers finally realise exactly what an impact Karmen can have, what she can affect. It’s a vindication that reflects so well on everything Karmen has done throughout this book.
The art is just gorgeous but there’s some real beauty in the way that every setting is rendered. Most of this takes place in rooms and these are the rooms we are familiar with yet the panes, angles and the choice of which areas to focus on make these familiar rooms and places still fresh and new even at this point of the story. There’s some really poignancy in some of them.
There are also some really beautiful little details as the story goes on as we see that circle of life, death and hope. It pays off to check out everything going on in the panel as there are things you will notice that will make you smile or have an ‘ah’ moment. Even the little things play their part in the story.
As I said I don’t want to go too much into spoilers but the ending felt perfect for what had gone before. The final few pages are devoid of speech as that’s not needed. The entire ending is just beautiful art with real meaning.
There’s a line in this book that goes ‘Let these ideas fly away, let them soar’ and this book has really done that. It’s taken quite complex and tricky ideas and set them free through wonderful writing and art. This book really has soared.
If you have not been reading Karmen read all five of these issues and you will not be disappointed. I have rarely felt so satisfied by a book’s narrative arc all the way through. It’s not always an easy read but that makes it all the more worthwhile. Wonderful art, great writing, this really is comics at their best.