Negative Exposure
by Thierry Smolderen, Georges
Pop, Enrico Marini
(Humanoids, 2003)

Imagine you're a reporter. Now, imagine you wake up in your Beijing hotel room to find the Tiananmen Square massacre taking place just 150 meters from your window. You leave your hotel room and begin trying to cover the hellish event. Then, out of nowhere, a woman you've never met arrives to whisk you away ... to safety? No, rather, to a location where 200 students from the failed uprising are about to be executed.

You, and you alone, are expected to take photos of the event, get them out of China and have them published, bringing an end to the rule of Deng Xiaoping.

Got all that? Good. You've just peeked into the life of investigative reporter Oliver Varese, the main character in the trade paperback collection Negative Exposure from Humanoids Publishing.

Written by Thierry Smolderen and Georges Pop, this engaging tale combines breakneck-paced action, international intrigue and great humor to produce a comic-reading experience all its own. Varese is finely portrayed as the in-over-his-head reporter who rises to the occasion, so thanks is due to said writers for superb characterization as well.

Artist Enrico Marini employs a manga/European art style that combines great character expression with fine detail. It goes a long way toward the success of the story. Readers should be forewarned, however, that this is NOT a children's book, due to the all-too-European tendency to insert nudity and sexual content needlessly.

"Oh, grow up, you prude! Comics surely have matured," is very often the response to such statements. Though, I must admit, I've never understood why including naked characters, sex and schoolyard language in a story is considered "mature." I'm much more impressed by a creator's ability to weave an entertaining tale by means of characterization, implication and wonderful artwork; but that's just me.

Negative Exposure does have two of the three, however, which is why it's still recommended for adults.

- Rambles
written by Mark Allen
published 27 December 2003

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