There are times in Alex Robinson's meticulous epic
when you can vividly hear the characters yelling, crying, arguing and
laughing as if you were a guest at one of their cozy apartment parties
yourself. The utter realism and clear voices of Robinson's characters
cascade from their small Manahttan rooms, escaping out of thickly drawn
black boxes and their own monochromaticism. The utter humanity of disgruntled
bookseller Sherman, desperate fanboy Ed, and sweet but vengeful artist
Jane, give the book its distinctly compelling taste of voyeurism. The
only events that happen in the book are common, everyday ones - losing
a job, visiting relatives, dating - but Robinson elevates them to the
sublime while thankfully avoiding heavy-handedness.
Robinson's storytelling is strong in its subtlety.
The personalities in the book are beautifully rendered, and the simple
art enhances the story and echoes the tone of the book with its expressionism.
Small touches bring out the humanity of the book, such as intermittent
second-person interviews with the main characters. Robinson's greatest
skill, perhaps, lies in creating a huge cast of regular and supporting
characters and making not only their appearances distinct, but their
personalities as well.
Box Office Poison is a beautifully collected book,
encompassing the entire run of the scarce and infrequently-published
comic book series. Unfortunately, its plot suffers from the randomness
of its publication schedule. More than most collected graphic novels,
there are shifts in Robinson's tone and ability throughout the course
of the book. Many chapters flow seamlessly into one another, but many
more feel disjointed. And the plot is sometimes wrapped up in each segment
too succinctly, especially at the end of the book itself, which is vaguely
dissatisfying. But this is only noticeable because of the intense realism
of the bulk of the work.