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Cicada from Top Shelf
By Al Kratina

January 9, 2008 - 19:53

Top Shelf Productions
Writer(s): Josué Menjivar
Penciller(s): Josué Menjivar
Cover Artist(s): Josué Menjivar


There are those who dismiss comic books as puerile male power fantasies that couple aggression with all the delicate sexuality of a 13-year old boy reading Maxim and snorting Ritalin. Though these are likely the same people who refuse to own TVs so they can pick up easy bohemian chicks at anti-G7 rallies, they do have a point. However, it’s these sorts of generalizations that help things like Josué Menjivar’s graphic novel Cicada stand out. A calm, softly depressing slice of a sad man’s life, Cicada provides an alternative to generic superhero fare. It’s not groundbreaking, to be sure, but it’s a refreshing and, if it didn’t kind of make me want to slit my wrists and die in a corner, enjoyable read.

Cicada is a simple story of a middle-aged man whose infidelities have driven his away his wife. Told in a simple, minimalist style, the story is juxtaposed with the life cycle of the cicada, an insect that lies in hibernation for years before coming to life and mating for a few short weeks before death. Though this comparison feels a bit forced and frustratingly trite at times, the story of Thomas Caudet is tragic in its small scope. Behavioural flaws have brought about his personal downfall, small mistakes and insecurities leading to collapse, as opposed to the grand themes of superhero comics. The most crushing aspect is the time lapse between Caudet’s divorce and his current crisis. When we first meet Caudet, he’s middle-aged, and holed up in a motel room. The flashback portions of the book show him as a younger man, and the implication of the life of quiet depression spanning the two sequences is affecting.

The art is simple black and white, with limited, functional backgrounds. That doesn’t mean it isn’t effective, as the simple panel layouts draw attention to Menjivar’s expressive faces. Some temporal transitions are well handled, and the simplicity leaves the emotional content of the book bare. As an indie comic, Cicada will likely stay under the radar, which is where it seems the most comfortable, but in a medium infested with superheroes and action epics written to tempt film options, it’s nice to know that there are books like this around, quietly crying in a dark room.

Rating: 7 on 10

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