Zeitgeist by Alex Thompson, the writer of Chaos Campus and Southern Hospitality and drawn by John River for Thompson’s own Approbation Comics, is a story of three young people with varying degrees of comic knowledge and interest. We have Max Yeung, who is a Hollywood screenwriter struggling through the dreaded development hell, Isabelle Fanning, a chronically single comic book store clerk, and Istabelle’s morally ambiguous best friend Leah Winters. The story opens with Isabelle locking eyes onto Max while he sits reading in her store, and boy does she like. She soon realises that he isn’t the comic connoisseur she first thought, but a Hollywood screenwriter doing some research for a comic book he is planning on writing. In spite of these and a few more snags, they get along and end up swapping numbers. Upon leaving the store he runs into Leah, almost literally, and they trade numbers instead of insurance details. Further elaboration than that and I’ll probably just end up spoiling things.
Zeitgeist is formatted like an omnibus of a newspaper comic strip with each strip having a separate name. It almost detracts from the story because I couldn’t help think that some days all you would get would be one out-of-context picture, but the comic manages to pull it off.
The only problem I had with Zeitgeist is that the story doesn’t move too far away from the simple concept of two girls chasing the same cute guy. The main players are fully formed, real world characters and have so much more potential than the story they run through. If given more of a plot to work with, I think they can be really entertaining. Isabelle in particular has a lot of potential given her tendency to change her mind from one panel to another. Her daydream sequence in strips 18 to 21 has an almost Scrubs-like feel to it, which is one of the coolest moments of the book. It is only used that one time, but in future installments I think it could make for some more exciting sequences.
The artwork is coloured in pencil, which makes for a nice change since we’re seeing something hand-crafted rather than the highly polished computer rendered art from a lot of mainstream comics.
It may just be that Zeitgeist is not my type of story but I like to think I’m a fairly open minded reader. The story has its moments but there is so much more potential to be had. It could work really well as a cross between Archie Comics and Image’s Geeksville. For now, it works on its own merit, but I hope to see some minor changes in the future. If you like the quirky, almost-meta type of comics that seem to reflect the live world of comic fandom, then you may want to give Zeitgeist a try. Come for the story, stay for the artwork and character development.
Have you checked out Zeitgeist yet? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!