One Punch Reviews #54: Power Nap
Every time I come across a reference to Maritza Campos’ Power Nap, there’s always a reference to College Roomies From Hell. I’ve never read that comic. I suspect it’s a blind spot that will prove to be my undoing, like that time I didn’t know what Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del were. (Oh, to return to those blissful, innocent days.) It’s long, and it never really seemed something that was up my alley, anyway. I’ve never really been a fan of college roommate comics, let alone one where they’re apparently from the eternal netherworlds of the damned. So I’m not the guy to go ask if this is better or worse than CRFH.
It doesn’t much matter, anyway. First of all, it’s visually distinct from CRFH. This time around someone else is handling artistic duties. Power Nap is penned by Bachan, a Mexican illustrator who also does Vinny. It seems to be about a werewolf of sorts.
At a quick glance, Power Nap looks to be catered towards Bachan’s well-honed skill set of drawing monsters. It’s a highly visual story filled with fantastic images of monsters and giant hands. Some of these are induced by the three-dimensional production values invested into getting the man on the street to pay attention to loud and intrusive advertising. Some of it, though, is going on in the mind of our main character, a harried office worker by the name of Drew Spencer.
The world of Power Nap is … well, not necessarily dystopian, per se, though it does share a lot of similarities to the beloved cracked-mirror future societies of 1984, Brazil, and Fahrenheit 451. A new drug called Z-Sups has hit the market that has made sleeping a thing of the past. Unfortunately, Drew is allergic to Z-Sups. His sleeping, once an accepted routine of the human condition, is now seen as an abnormality. It’s the sort of premise that almost screams to be taken seriously. Perhaps it should be presented in a black-and-white indie comic format with art by David Mazzucchelli or Dave Gibbons. Campos, instead, plays things for laughs. Bachan complies, with cartoony, almost Looney-Tunes-style artwork filled with bulgy eyes and exaggerated features.
And somehow, it works.
By setting the story in the future, Campos introduces an element of uncertainty towards Drew’s condition. We’ve all experienced the effects of sleep deprivation. The jumpiness. The irritability. The hallucinations of a serpentine dragon with an umbrella. The new technology, though, introduces an element of doubt to Drew’s life. Is he imagining things? Or are they the newest visual technologies, capable of generating intimidating glowing hands, that only merely seem as if they’re self-generated figments of a tired mind? In a future where marketing has gotten so viral that some ads are reenacted using real props and devil cosplay is a regular thing, there’s no way to be truly certain whether or not something you’re seeing is the real deal or not.
And yet in the humor is a touch of despair. Drew can’t hold a relationship because he’s seen as abnormal. He keeps getting bumped down the corporate latter, because — while his condition acts as a disability that keeps him from getting fired — he’s seriously under-performing compared to his fellow employees since he can’t function 24 hours a day. Hence, his job as a guy stapling papers. No one understands why his IQ keeps falling, or why he can’t stay awake for some whoopee. It’s problem after problem after problem… one that, in a flashback, caused him to snap and burn the office down.
And, like all decent sci-fi stories, it re-contextualizes real world problems and makes them personal. Deep down, beyond the cutesy references to JJ Abrams Jr. and the silly dragon that keeps trying to offer Drew and umbrella, Power Nap is about struggling through life’s indignities and the stomach-churning realization that no one has any idea what you’re going through.
Rating: Five stars (out of 5).