"Pirouette #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Black Mask Studios
Written by Mark L. Miller
Illustrated by Carlos Granda
2014, 32 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on October 8th, 2014
Can we all agree that clowns are creepy? I know some of them mean well, but after characters like Pennywise, it's tough to look at they're painted on smiles and not feel a little spooked. Mark L. Miller adds to this with Pirouette. Set in a traveling circus, the book follows the title character who was raised by clowns under the big top since she was an infant. She longs to break free and find a new life away from her cruel foster parents. It doesn't help that her adopted father is The Duke, the clown that seems to run the operation and takes crap from no one.
Miller wastes no time scaring the crap out of you with Pirouette. The first three pages show what is presumably a dream, with the main character trying desperately to take her makeup off. She scrubs and scrubs and nothing happens. Then she digs deep into her skin and literally rips her face off. There's a panel where the smiling face lands against the wall with a bloody flop that is very reminiscent of the first arc of DC's Detective Comics in the New 52, where the Joker found himself in a similar situation, albeit voluntarily.
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Artist Carlos Granda makes that scene work so well with a double-page spread that is cringe-inducing. There's a panel that stretches across both pages with Pirouette pulling at the bottom of her face, stretching it to near comical lengths while letting out a blood-curdling scream. This is a fantastic way to start a comic.
After the startling opening pages, the book jumps into what looks like everyday life at the circus. Pirouette looks happy as she plays a prank on the trapeze artists. She doesn't have a care in the world and she's just out to have fun. Looks can be deceiving, as we're reminded again those smiling faces are just makeup. When The Duke gets wind of her actions, Pirouette quickly regrets her decisions and we learn that the mask can cover up bruises as well as emotions.
It's very easy to instantly identify with Pirouette. You feel for her from the start as she struggles to find her place in this world. She doesn't feel like she belongs in the circus and yearns for something more. This makes the violent scenes almost hard to look at because by the time they pop up, Pirouette feels like an old friend.
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Granda manages to bounce between lovable cuteness and terrifying at a moment's notice. The aforementioned opening scene is definitely on the scary side, but then it quickly jumps to happy and whimsical as Pirouette performs for a crowd. There's one panel in this bunch that features a closeup of her face with a big grin. It appears genuine, but it's creepy with the makeup. It somehow sums up the feeling about clowns in general. Granda delivers some absolutely gorgeous artwork throughout Pirouette. There is not a bad panel in the book.
Pirouette is a stunning yet tragic look at circus life through the eyes of a young woman looking to break out. As an added bonus, there's a scene where a woman vomits off the trapeze. What more could you ask for?