“Laugh at the wonder of it all / Laugh so loud you break your fall”
Maria Llovet has made quite a name for herself in her career, illustrating two recent American comics that are filled with weird people doing weird things, often of a sexual nature. So it’s perhaps not surprising that this graphic novel, which she wrote and drew, is also filled with weird people doing weird things, often of a sexual nature. Llovet has found a lane, damn it, and she’s sticking to it for now! Loud is published by Black Mask Studios, and it’s pretty danged fun.
Loud takes place entirely in and around a nightclub, appropriately called “Loud.” Several characters come together at the spot, do lots of stuff, and then separate. Llovet throws them together in an environment where facial expressions and body language are important, not only for the characters to communicate with each other, but for us to understand what’s going on. It’s a difficult task she’s set for herself, but she manages it nicely. There’s not so much a plot as little vignettes, with characters having moments with each other and then the focus of the book moving on to other characters. There are vampires, though, and a couple who hunts vampires, so the book does become pretty violent at the end, as something like a climax occurs. But generally, Llovet just moves around the club – one character is having sex in the bathroom, but then she overdoses on acid and the woman she went in with leaves her in a stall, which probably saves her life, as we see later. One character, who seems like she might be important, gets fed up and quits halfway through the book, and as the book is focused on the club, we never follow her out of it and she disappears from the narrative. Two characters fall in love (or at least in lust) without ever actually talking to each other, and they’re making out later as the bullets fly (presumably the noise in the club absorbs the gunfire, so why would they even know violence is happening all around?). While the plot is almost non-existent, Llovet finds beautiful little moments in the cacophony, and she finds plenty of humor in the horror of the vampire plot and the desperation in some of the other events at the club.
Of course, her art has to carry this, and it does, marvelously. It’s a crowded book, packed with people, but Llovet manages to keep them all unique, so it’s not all that difficult to follow who’s who and what they’re doing. Some people are similar-looking, of course, but it’s not detrimental to the plot, because she dresses people uniquely and they act differently, as all people do. There are aggressive sound effects throughout the book, naturally, and they add to the sense of claustrophobia that you can get in a club, where the people crowd in on you. Without making it too crowded (we still have to be able to follow the characters, after all), Llovet creates that claustrophobia with the effects, and it’s pretty clever. As I noted, she dresses her characters well, in chic club-going clothing that still expresses their different personalities. The club itself is an interesting place, as Llovet makes sure it’s well-lit (unlike a real club) so we can see a lot of it, and it adds to the strangeness of the book’s vibe. It’s maze-like, and while not too hard to figure out, it still presents a challenge if you’re high on something or trying to move quickly. The furniture is shaped like human body parts, so you might be sitting on the back of a figure bent over, the legs and arms forming the legs of the chair. This comes in handy a bit late in the book, when a character decides to use an arm in a way that was definitely not intended. There’s a fair amount of sex and nudity in the book, and Llovet does a good job drawing the people in different positions, some not terribly flattering, and not shying away from the ugliness of this scene, even though people are supposed to be having fun. She has the people express themselves very well, and she gives them all little tics to distinguish them, which makes them more human without using words. She also uses some interesting “camera angles” to create movement or simply to disorient the reader in the way that the people in the club might be disoriented, and she doesn’t do it too much to make us lose the plot, just enough to make us work a bit harder. She uses big panels of characters’ eyes well throughout, showing how their moods shift slightly when something new comes into their field of perception. The visual aspect of the book is really nice, and given how little dialogue there is, that’s pretty important.
Loud is a fun adventure – it’s not brilliant, but it is very cleverly done, and Llovet does a nice job steering us around the club and through the plot. There are heroes and villains, but mostly just people trying to get by and grab a little craziness while they do, even if it means violence comes with it. Llovet has been around for a while doing comics in Europe, but maybe her recent work for American publishers – this book included – will give her a higher profile in the States!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆