The Darkest Show On Earth

Come one come all to the review of the brand new book by Black Mask Studios:

Pirouette #1 (2014)
Black Mask Studios

Writer/Creator: Mark L. Miller (@mark_l_miller)
Pencils/Ink: Carlos Granda
Colors: El Comic En Linea Foundation
Letters: Jim Campbell
Prod. Artist: Vincent Kukua
Producer: Matt Pizzolo

Man... I despise the circus... I don't like the treatment of the animals, clowns are obnoxious, and I don't trust the vendors...

THAT BEING SAID, Pirouette doesn't make me want to go to the circus (if anything, it makes my opinion of clowns worse), but it does make me curious about the lifestyles of the people who work at them. 

Pirouette is a young clown who travels with Samwell's Circus. She is very gifted, not only in clowning around (har har) but also in acrobatics, tom foolery, and pissing off her "dad," the main clown nicknamed The Duke (real name not included). Mark L. Miller writes her as a character able to receive an abnormal amount of abuse, while being constantly clever and upbeat with a strong personality that matches her large heart. Pirouette feels like there is more she should be doing with her life, and this first chapter in her saga proves that it will be a terrifying and fascinating journey.

I'll try to keep this as short and spoiler free as possible. The book opens up with Pirouette trying to remove the make-up from her face, and right off the bat sucks the readers in by showing her tear her own face off, which is tastefully showcased on a two page spread (tastefully in the sense that they didn't feel the need to show her whole skinless face, which I greatly appreciate). From those first 3 pages, some may be thrown off, thinking the story is just going to be another gore-porn story in the vain of some Avatar comic titles, however from the preceding pages that doesn't seem to be the case. After that unpleasantness, the story goes into an average day in the life of Pirouette, as she entertains children, pisses off some of the other performers by stealing the spotlight, and enrages The Duke to the point of physical abuse. Ending on a mystery 2 pages worth of text in the making, this first issue is stuffed full of soulful story and disturbing/intriguing characters.

You can't talk about this story without bringing up the main antagonist (although you can argue that most of the circus acts as one). The Duke is a truly disgusting character, expertly written by Miller. He has an ideology that "a clown is a clown," not a person who can simply take off an outfit and make-up, almost as if they are their own race. This ideology is embraced by the other clowns (minus Pirouette) to the point that any clown removing make-up or trying to be normal in any way will forcibly be shoved back into the role, how much force that takes relies on the clown. He has raised Pirouette for 15 years and it is clear that the abuse she receives is nothing new, almost to the point where it no longer phases her. This personally hits me in a hard place. Being a father I get so angry when I see other folks doing stuff like this to kids, real or fictional, it always makes me mad. As I get down from my sopabox, I'd also like to note that Granda does a great job of drawing this character, always with cross, squinted eyes and his hands on his belt... or his belt tightly gripped in his hand.

Granda as well as the El Comic En Linea Foundation work together to make each page look like a twisted work by Windsor McCay, not so much in composition, but in the controlled busy-ness in every panel. The colors create two worlds in the book: the crowd in the background that is enjoying everything that the circus has to offer (with an earthy hue) and the drama/pain happening with the main characters (which is more colorful than the bystanders to subtly drag the eye).

In case it's not clear, I really enjoyed Pirouette. It strikes some uncomfortable cords, but it is rare for a book to give you this much intimacy with the protagonist. The publishers website currently shows that at least four issues will be printed, though I'm not sure if it's a mini or supposed to continue on past that. 

It is definitely worth a read and aids Black Mask Studios, therefore aiding creators. Quit clowning around (wokka wokka?) and find it at your local comic shop or visit!

Thanks for reading!

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