Koma – Graphic Novel Spotlight


Originally released as six individual albums from 2003 to 2008, Swiss comic creators Pierre Wazem and Frederick Peeters’ moving story of a precocious young girl finding her way in an industrialised alien world is now re-released in a new edition.

Addidas is a bright and quirky young girl who spends most of her time helping her widowed father in his job as a chimney sweep. When Addidas ventures too far into a chimney, she encounters a bizarre new friend and in the process destabilizes a long-established system.

Whilst immensely depressing in places, there is a lot to enjoy in Koma. Wazem and Peeters create an almost Dickensian like setting with the heavy industrial atmosphere (greatly depicted by Peeters with industrial chimney bellowing out smoke and a general griminess that permeates the rest of the surroundings) and also the presence of a child who is forced to grow up fast in a grown-up world.  In addition, Wazem presents some great characters including Addias’ father who lives in constant frustration that the highly competitive industrial chimney cleaning business is the only way he can make any income and that he has to have his daughter help him in his work after he lost his wife in a similar situation.

Most importantly, Wazem gives us a really likable protagonist in Addidas who despite losing her mother, having to help her father clean the hard to reach areas of the filthy chimneys that are all over the city and suffering from an unknown illness that causes her to lose consciousness for indeterminate periods of time, she manages to maintain a degree of positivity and maintains a warm personality with those she meets (with the exception of those causing trouble for her and her father), even when she faces the unknown as she encounters the mysterious creatures living under the city that are directly linked to the people populating the world above.

Alongside the tale of adolescence and discovery, Wazem also presents a great examination on the obsession of prolonging life as certain people also discover the existence of the creatures living below them and seek to permanently alter the established system so they can potentially live forever which acts as a great contrast to Addidas less cynical approach to life and this discovery in particular.

Peeters’ not only excels in depicting a great industrial world setting but also in creating a variety of distinct looking characters in a simplistic style that manage to convey a lot more expression and emotion than you’d expect. He also creates a great contrast between the exaggerated child features of Addidas and the bulky and ferocious looking creatures that man the machines below, which is especially effective when Addidas first encounters her new friend.

Whilst hard to read at times because of the emotional punches and the rather cynical outlook on life some of the characters have, this is still a fun take on the growing up genre and a great looking comic to boot.

Koma is published 4 May by Humanoids, Inc.

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