"Becoming" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Arcana Studio
Written by Brooke Burgess
Illustrated by Dane Cypel
2012, 99 Pages
Graphic Novel released in November 2012
Ahhh...college. A place where young minds can grow and kids become adults ready to tackle the world and make a difference. Sure, that's supposed to be the end result, but they'll experiment and get wasted along the way. That would be the case for most people except for Jacob Price in Becoming. He's a douchebag kid with an unrealistic sense of entitlement. He's not happy with his current standing in Dr. Magus' class and he's willing to lie, cheat, or steal to get the grade he feels he deserves. Magus doesn't care though. He sees the true character within Price and won't give in to his bullshit.
Price isn't happy with this answer and pushes further, even threatening to blackmail Magus at one point. Unknown to Price, Magus has a very dark soul and doesn't react well to threats. He decides to help the boy, but not in the way that was expected. This isn't merely a change in a grade. Price is about to see what he's really made of, whether he likes it or not. That involves getting chained to the wall in a dark basement for some reason.
Becoming straddles the line between existentialism and torture porn. Magus believes that he's teaching Price a lesson. He must be broken before he can truly appreciate what he has and what he can achieve in this life. This is a trial of pain with the reward of true knowledge. This isn't immediately clear to Price, so he struggles and tries to break free from his prison over and over again.
This could be an interesting story of redemption and acceptance of the things that you cannot change in life, but I just could not stand the character of Jacob Price. He's the embodiment of everything I dislike about these entitled asshole college kids that are popping up in the real world now. They all think the world owes them something when they've done nothing to earn it. Putting Price through this ordeal was satisfying to watch, but I didn't care if he made it through or not. He's an entirely unlikable character for the vast majority of the comic. The attempts that author Brooke Burgess makes to redeem him as a character fall flat.
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Dane Cypel's artwork is adequate, but ends up being wasted most of the time. The bulk of Becoming takes place either at night or in a dark basement, so Cypel's pencils are often washed out in black. There are ways of making a space feel cramped and desolate without having to cover it in darkness. They do it all the time in movies and the same can be done in comics. I love Cypel's design for Magus. He's always presented with this opaque glasses on that usually glow red. You don't know what's going on behind those lenses, but you know it's something evil. To add to that, Magus' fingertips are usually bloodstained. Everything about the character is just creepy.
Becoming tries a bit too hard to be a deeper story than it is. It could be an average kidnapping / torture porn story, but it struggles to be more than that. Magus has this strange plan to better Price as a person, but it's unclear as to why he wants to do this and where he came from to begin with. There are hints that he's something more than human, but those could come from delusions that Price has during his time in the basement. At the very least, Becoming will make you appreciate what you have in life and the fact that you're (hopefully) not currently chained up in a dark basement.