Comical Musings

Review: Multiplex

by on Sep.07, 2009, under Review

For the year and a half before my recent move, I was on-and-off dating an amazing young lady who happened to work at a movie theater. (Speaking of which, if she’s reading this, hi! You remain awesome.) Her hours and mine were sometimes wildly incompatible, meaning conventional dates were out of the question, but we’d often take walks through downtown Provo and chat about various things. Occasionally, the conversation would turn to the latest bit of drama among the theater staff or the latest bit of head-turning cluelessness from the patrons. She even started sketching a few comics to vent her frustrations.

It turns out, however, that she’s not the only one who’s wanted to do such a comic. Take, for example, Multiplex, a soap opera-style comic created by Gordon McAlpin. The stupid, impolite, and disingenuous customers certainly show up in force. The emphasis of the comic, however, is placed more on the tangled ball of relationships resulting from a hectic workplace with a variable staff of teenagers and young adults. And let me warn you now: being a soap opera with plenty of young adults, Multiplex is not. Work. Safe. McAlpin even hangs a lampshade on the fact.

Keeping up with the story gets a little tough, however, when there are so very many different characters to keep up with, most of whom only get a few fractions of a page of face time. Sure, it’s realistic to have unfamiliar faces show up, but half the time when a side character gets pulled into the spotlight, you’re left scratching your head and saying, “Who was that?”

Adding to the confusion, the staff characters like to cosplay as characters from current movies. This is often also a means of making various subtle references to features of the movies or to the goings-on backstage. Those who aren’t up-to-date on the latest celebrity gossip will frequently be left clueless.

The comic also tends to delve into political and religious disagreements, but over the course of the comic, McAlpin puts in the effort to be fair. Sure, one Christian is a certifiable airhead, but then she and the other Christian get more depth as characters. And while the progressive-minded atheist of the group gets his moments to feel superior to the ignorant among the faithful, he also gets his comeuppance now and then. The comic walks a fine line, and it’s a testament to McAlpin’s skill that he can keep it from tipping over.

Multiplex was originally meant to be a series of Flash cartoons (as alluded to here), and the art style reflects it, starting mainly as easy-to-animate colorforms. The style has grown slowly more complex, though, and sometimes the scenery is simply mind-blowing. McAlpin bases the comic in his hometown of Chicago, and the familiarity really shows.

So on the one hand, Multiplex is a crude comic full of sex scenes, crude language, innuendo, and racial slurs. And on the other hand, it’s a very well-written comic with intertwining plots, thought-provoking concepts, and a willingness to be unabashedly nerdy on a specialized subject. It’s likely to be a guilty pleasure for anyone who spends a lot of time at the theater, on either side of the counter.

Comic rating: Eight sides (at least) on the love polygon.

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