Stan Silas Rides the Dark Cute with Titan Comics' Norman

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Norman Titan Comics Stan Silas Critical Blast

There's a lot of wrong ways you can go when you want to blend 'cute' and 'dark'. Ted Naifeh gets it right with COURTNEY CRUMRIN. So does Roman Dirge with LENORE.

Stan Silas takes things a step further with his Chibi characters living in a CALVIN AND HOBBES-like world, in the Titan Books publication, NORMAN. The titular Norman is a cute little 8-year-old blonde-headed boy with an imaginary friend. It just so happens his imaginary friend to urge him to kill people, and taunts him about getting caught.

Now, given that, you've got the potential for a super-creepy, very very wrong scenario here that gives me the willies. However, once you begin reading the story, the character of Norman becomes one that's very comical, even (I dare say) endearing. Yes, he's a killer -- but he's not very good at it. Additionally, much in the vein of shows like DEXTER, the world he lives in is brimming with people who pretty much deserve it, and/or aren't smart enough to see through the obvious clues.

Norman lives in nigh perpetual fear of being found out, and goes through some hilarious overacting mourning when a victim is found. But there are other things for him to be afraid of, because believe it or not, an 8-year-old serial killer is not the creepiest thing to be found in these pages. There's also the alcoholic cougar of a teacher who forces her students to sell raffle tickets for better grades, communication from beyond the grave with witnesses of Norman's murders, and a scientist who's seen ANNA TO THE INFINITE POWER one too many times.

While the artwork has a manga influence toward the cute side, don't be deceived. This one isn't for kids. Beside the surface subject matter, there's some language as well as some situations that are simply wrong. Funny. But wrong. If you're a grown-up looking for a dark laugh, NORMAN is a book that will be right up your alley, and I'd be glad to recommend it. It's got all the right twists and turns to keep the story moving and engaging from beginning to end, and even sneaks in some sly humor that this reviewer didn't notice on my first pass through the book -- scenes like the one below, where Grace, Alice and Olga team up to solve the mystery of a student's disappearance.

Norman, have you seen Jeremy? In your sandwich?

Artistically, Silas captures the dynamics of each moment expertly, conveying panic, anger, despair -- all the dark emotions, done with such a comedic overtone so one never forgets that this is all one big joke.

The final recommendation? Buy this book. Hide it from your normal friends, by all means, but buy it, and read it many times.

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0