Wet Moon volume 1: Feeble Wanderings


By Sophie Campbell (Oni Press)
ISBN: 978-1-93266-407-2

Wet Moon seems like one of grown-up comics’ biggest secrets. Published intermittently by Oni Press since 2004, it’s a winning blend of the literary traditions of Southern Gothic with experimental comic strip endeavours like Glenn Head’s Chicago – a Comix Memoir, Brian O’Malley’s Lost at Sea or Liz Suburbia’s Sacred Heart

Looking like a beautifully rendered young adult soap opera filmed in monochrome, the story unfolds in the bayou-lapped Deep South, where the eponymous township of Wet Moon is the venue for an art school and home of a thriving Goth/Newest Wave/counterculture scene.

If you’re my age you could think of it as a modern corollary to Athens, Georgia when REM were attending college at U of G or the B-52s were learning to play…

The focus of our attention is pensive, introspective young student Cleo Lovedrop; a bespectacled, overweight, marginally-pierced, heavily made-up Goth-girl attending the aforementioned college. Like every teen she’s a mess of insecurities and irrepressible urges, but all she wants to do is understand both the world and herself. She also has her fair share of dark melancholic secrets…

Cleo is still finding her feet after moving into shared digs, but her mind is elsewhere; something from her past that she doesn’t even want to think won’t shut up even now that she’s here and starting fresh. Thankfully, her best friends Trilby Bernarde and Mara Zuzanny are scoping out the place with her and are proving to be the usual distraction…

Elsewhere, absent pal Audrey Richter is with Martin. They are busy avoiding Pete, the “Pringles Guy”.

He’s one of those pests who always has to show you his artwork. Whilst dodging him, Audrey hides in the public toilets and sees lots of graphitti. The only bit she remembers however, is the clearly scrawled legend “Cleo eats it” boldly adorning the stall partition…

Cleo spends a lot of time examining herself in mirrors. At first the reader is unsure exactly what she’s looking for or at and Campbell is smart enough and bold enough to let the art advance these scenes, using silence as a method of conveying both meaning and mood; letting the observer reach their own conclusions, right or wrong…

What Cleo cannot know is that the girl in the apartment next door is doing the same thing, and will soon become very important to her…

Audrey rushes off to warn Cleo and – after a deputation examines the offending libel – agrees it must be aimed at their friend: after all, Cleo is a pretty rare name…

Also at last agreed that it’s a damn lie, they go their separate ways. Still feeling sick and uncomfortable, Cleo heads home and meets another room-mate: pretty, standoffish Natalie Ringtree who seems to live in a world of her own…

Soon after, Cleo visits her older sister Penny and walks home humiliated after another one of “those” fights…

She would have caught the bus back but when she boarded “he” was there and she had to dash off and puke up her guts…

Back at the flat, she’s still throwing up when final flatmate Malady Mayapple introduces herself at Cleo’s moment of maximum embarrassment…

Audrey lusts for the girl at the Head-Butt Video, but when the delicious Myrtle Turenne surprisingly responds a certain way, the panicked Ricter bolts and flees the store. Luckily big, dependable, dumb-as-dirt Slicer is there when she stumbles right into another petty domestic crisis…

That night Trilby is rescued from a pathetic evening watching Star Trek when Cleo and Mara turn up and drag her to Goth nightclub House of Usher. It’s an eventful soiree. Cleo has a close encounter with a self-obsessed art-weirdo and Mara punches out the girl who stole her boyfriend…

Everything freezes when Fern walks in. She’s the most amazing and breathtaking vision anybody has ever seen… even with her unseeing eyes and malformed, withered hand…

That night is a revelation for so many lonely, hungry people, but all Trilby remembers is that she got really, really drunk and made a pass at Cleo…

A hangover breakfast at the local Denny’s then devolves into an over-heated debate about suicide, potential partners and worse before breaking up acrimoniously. Then as they pass the video store, Audrey tells Cleo about what till-girl Myrtle did and, curiosity piqued, Lovedrop has to see for herself. The so-casual meeting does not pan out anything like she expected…

Making her way home, Audrey finds “Cleo Eats It” fliers all over the place, and while she’s disposing of them, deep in the bayou Penny Lovedrop is at Fern’s palatial mansion applying for a job. This strange client, however, seems far more interested in her annoying half-sister Cleo…

The girl in question’s day keeps getting worse. She can’t avoid “him”. Everywhere she turns that bastard Vincent shows up: not following, just always waiting for her…

And when she reaches the apartment, she learns from Malady that the tenant she replaced vanished one night. She was there at bedtime and gone by breakfast. Nobody saw her go…

Clutching her always roiling stomach, Cleo heads to bed and just can’t rest. Even so, she oversleeps, and dashing out next morning, crashes late into her first class. When she sees “him” sitting there, she hurtles right out again, plunging down the stairs, landing on the girl who will change her life forever…

And deep in the Bayou, other people manoeuvre into position; ready to make their own dramatic entrances…

To Be Continued…

This initial, introductory book is the tantalising tip of a vast iceberg of inter-related life-stories which, like alligators in a swamp, present only the merest hint of what lurks beneath. An ongoing saga encompassing the mystery of a missing girl, lost babies, sinister plots and a malicious hidden enemy utilising the power of lies and innuendo, this engrossing ongoing epic ferociously targets the contemporary battleground of appearance, sexual orientation, acceptance and self-identification, exploring themes of isolation, friendship, trust and body dysmorphia with great wit, keen insight, clever characterisation and immense heart.

Before finding higher profile work in the mainstream with series like Glory, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jem and the Holograms Sophie (Ross) Campbell was astounding readers with this sprawling yarn (six collected volumes thus far and at least two more planned) and this edition comes with a large selection of extras.

As well as ‘Older Wet Moon Artwork’ pages, there are developmental sketches and an abortive introductory sequence which works perfectly as a 5-page silent vignette introducing pre-college Cleo, plus an absolutely crucial ‘Who’s Who in Wet Moon’

With welcoming echoes of Gilbert Hernandez’s complex and delicious celebrations of unique, flawed yet uncompromisingly human communities in Love and Rockets as well as off-kilter televisual landmarks like Twin Peaks, Maximum Bob or American Gothic, this is a series at the fringes, but make no mistake, Wet Moon is every inch its own creature: sinisterly enticing, seductively unconventional and emotionally compelling.
™ and © 2004 (Sophie) Ross Campbell. All rights reserved.