Creator: Jonathan Kociuba
Review by Cameron Kieffer
Steve is a cartoonist in the midst of a major crisis. Still suffering the hardship of a recent breakup, our protagonist is coping by focusing on his latest comic series, which happens to be a romantic comedy. Unfortunately his other creation, a superhero called Captain Arrow, isn’t pleased with this shift in priorities. Things get even more muddled when Steve’s creations enter his day-to-day life and the line between reality and fantasy goes from blurry to virtually nonexistent.
Creator Jonathan Kociuba layers “Inception”-style ideas on top of each other to create a narrative that is clever but ultimately too meta for its own good. The struggles presented are relatable for any creator, particularly when it comes to clashing ideas and the challenge of keeping focused. However, with so many different ideas and themes present, the story ends up veering into various directions. Characters enter and exit the story without explanation of who they are and whether they truly exist or are merely constructs of Steve’s imagination. While the latter is certainly an interesting concept, it’s simply not explored enough to be compelling and just makes certain interactions seem vague. The dialogue is also fairly inconsistent; every character has a distinct voice but there are a lot of weak lines and the cursing seems more gratuitous than natural.
The art, also by Kociuba, shows a lot of potential. A few panels here and there could use a little more work when it comes to perspective, but the line art is clean, and the inks are very nice. The character designs are fun without becoming outlandish; the grounded approach to their appearance is very effective, creating a sharp contrast to the bizarre narrative. The book is printed entirely in black and white, and the overall presentation has a great aesthetic.
The Verdict: Wait and see.
Paperhead is a funny, nightmarish, and thought-provoking look into the psyche of a cartoonist. It has its fair share of weaknesses, including an ending that goes from meta to pretentious, but it’s all done by a creator with a lot of potential.