Published on October 20th, 2016 | by Steven Roman
Review: Venus F.
Dystopian futures have become quite popular in recent years—given the current political climate around the world, it seems easy to think we’re at the start of a societal breakdown, with all the crushing bleakness it promises. Mad Max: Fury Road, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, U.S. voters hoping an asteroid will destroy the planet before the November 2016 elections—I don’t think we’ve seen people this terrified of the future since the 1970s, when Hollywood helped stoke the flames with releases like The Omega Man, Soylent Green, Zardoz, and The Late, Great Planet Earth.
A dystopian future is just such the setting for Venus F., a Mature Readers black-and-white one-shot created, written, and drawn by Chris Malgrain (The Formidables, The Rovers) and released by French publishing house Oniric Comics.
Before I start on the review, let’s get the full disclosure out of the way: I recently signed on with Oniric to be the editor of its English-language titles, and before that, publisher Chris Malgrain and I worked together on the one issue of a never-completed miniseries called Stan Lee’s Alexa, back in 2004. However, months before Chris asked me to join Oniric, he asked if I’d review Venus F. when it was published, knowing that its subject matter might be of interest to readers of Comics for Sinners. And considering this one-shot’s sexy lead, I agreed with that assessment.
So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to reviewing.
This special, whose story title is “Venus Fleur au vent” (“Venus: Flower in the Wind”; thanks, Google Translate!), is a completely “silent” comic, devoid of captions and word balloons. It’s an approach that’s been used quite a bit by the comics industry; in 2001, Marvel even once devoted an entire month’s worth of titles to the concept, under the banner “”Nuff Said.” Often it’s a showcase for the comic’s artist, allowing him or her to prove that they can clearly tell a story without having to rely on words to explain the situation.
When I asked him to describe Venus F., Chris said, “In a post-apocalyptic Earth ruled by a dictator, a young woman who can’t find her place in society takes advantage of her being drafted into the intergalactic imperial army to desert it and discover the universe—and herself. It’s a sort of a self-therapy book full of symbols and literary references that make the reader a co-builder of the story. This book is not a quest for real meaning, but a voyage through the reader’s emotions.”
It also stars a main character who wears revealing outfits, and sometimes nothing at all. Taking that at face value, your emotional voyage may vary. 😉
Jokes aside, the world of Venus F. ruled by a religious/militaristic/fascistic political order that believes in public stonings and hangings as punishments; it’s an ugly society for an equally ugly world. A world too harsh for Venus to live in any longer, but just as she’s contemplating suicide…she’s drafted into the Imperial Army and sent to be a soldier, fighting to conquer other worlds. And that’s when her story really begins…
The narrative is pretty clear cut—even without captions or dialogues, it’s easy for the reader to follow Venus’s story, as she searches for a better life. As for the art, Malgrain’s vision is an incredibly detailed one, from sci-fi environments to alien worlds, with more than a hint of a Moebius influence, but it still remains his own style…and yes, with enough nude shots of Venus that readers of Comics for Sinners will appreciate! Sometimes that attention to detail becomes a minor problem, as in a double-splash-page image of Venus rising a feathered dinosaur—with both foreground figures and background environments alike inked with the same line weight, there’s a danger of making one indistinguishable from the other. Still, there’s an incredible amount of talent on display here, and going black and white with the presentation was a smart choice, allowing the art to really shine.
Bottom line? Come for the eye-popping art, stay for the silent, thought-provoking narrative. Venus F. should appeal not just to fans of the female form, but to science fiction readers and comic fans looking for something a bit deeper than the usual comic book fisticuffs and explosions.
Written, illustrated, and cover art by Chris Malgrain
Publisher: Oniric Comics
56 pages • black & white
$4.99 U.S. print • 99¢ U.S. digital