One Punch Reviews #79: Opplopolis
The most eye-catching aspect of Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life was its excellent use of the infinite canvas. The technique is often touted as the future of comics. It was well executed and tied thematically to a story about two robots traveling in the solitude of the solar system.
For the follow-up, author Kit Roebuck goes with something more traditional. The webcomic Opplopolis, which is really tough to find on Google due to its tongue-twisty name, feels very old-school. The panels are laid out like a traditional comic book page. The colors are solid and not very flashy. Character designs are retro, but from eras that are difficult to pinpoint with precision.
In fact, Opplopolis feels very much like a Vertigo comic published in the early 1990′s. Specifically, Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles… only not nearly as weirdly metaphysical. And that’s a good thing.
Opplopolis is a very hard webcomic to describe. Even though it’s on Chapter 5 of an ongoing story, the reader is still at a loss as what can or cannot be trusted. There’s a scene, for example, where a man is talking to a middle-aged woman. She is a hand model. He looks at her young hands. Then he looks at the woman’s face, she’s de-aged to her 19-year-old self. The reader sort of rolls with it; the world of Opplopolis has already been established as a weird place where the rich walk around in anachronistic Victorian dresses. But it turns out, the man himself is taken aback. This shadow of doubt yanks you back into realizing how deeply weird this world is.
It’s a world that’s familiar enough to be unsettling. In one scene, an old man enlists a kid to help him with searching the internet. The kid gets indignant. Who hasn’t been there, right? So he tries to walk the old man into how to use the computer. He presses the “On” button. And… twists some pressure valves. Oh, and it turns out that “Google” is some sort of wireframe 3D face. Trippy.
At the center is a mystery surrounding the word “Marvedyne.” Despite the far reach of the internet, a search turns up nothing. So what is it? The old man only overhead the word at a party with a baron. Later, with the help of the kid who is paid off with a Sega Saturn, he finds that the word is connected with a secret society. Elsewhere, two bad movie buffs run across a mysterious video tape called “Spy Femmes“. They find the end of the movie particularly inscrutable, and they discover that it had originally been released under a different name.
Now, compared to The Invisibles, Opplopolis isn’t quite so high concept. There are plenty of strange ideas — such as a celebrity who share one personality but is represented by several bodies — but they’re all fairly grounded. Which, like I said, is a good thing. With The Invisibles, Morrison makes the characters so unlikable that I wasn’t sure if I wanted them to succeed in the end. There’s no such problem here. While none of the characters are perfect, they are sympathetic, and you’re rather invested in the forthcoming moment when they unravel the puzzle. The weirdness is never too overwhelming.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).