"Freelance Blues" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Alterna Comics
Written by Ian Deffern and Mike Leone
Illustrated by Vicki Tierney
2012, 142 Pages
Graphic novel released on July 15th, 2015
Everyone has had a crappy boss at one point in their lives. It's bound to happen. Maybe he's a real asshole or you just never got along. That seems to be the case for every job that Lance Bunkman holds, only in his case, his bosses are literally evil. They're monsters. They're demons in a telemarketing company or an organ-harvesting mad scientist running drug trials. Poor Lance seems to be a magnet for this kind of stuff, which makes it very hard to keep a job.
Freelance Blues presents an interesting premise. It's one that's certainly relatable to anyone that's ever worked any job ever. Lance is just trying to get by and get a paycheck to help support his two sisters. His heart is in the right place. His brain on the other hand...not quite.
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See, Lance is a bit of a moron. Maybe that's too strong. He's certainly a competent individual, capable of figuring out when a monster is in his midst and what to do to stop it. He just seems to make some pretty dumb decisions. The maguffin of the graphic novel is that Lance has to get from Boston to the West Coast to see his dying grandfather, who is one of the most important people in his life. He presumably pays for plane tickets for his sisters, but he can't afford one for himself. Instead of swallowing his pride and asking his a-hole relatives out there for a loan, he decides to drive cross country, picking up odd jobs along the way to pay for the trip. Did I mention that his grandfather, whom he loves dearly, is dying?
I get the story need for having him drive across the country, as that leads to all kinds of wacky adventures, but it doesn't make sense in the context of the characters. This would be different if the people he helped along the way came back to help him in exchange. After Lance finishes a job (with one exception), we never see those people again.
As the story goes on, we get a bit more of a background in terms of Lance's family life. He has shouldered this huge responsibility from a young age after his parents passed away. He provides for his sisters, although I'm not entirely sure what, if anything, they actually do. They map out his trip for him, pointing out jobs he can take along the way and they're quick to help when Lance is looking for information on one of his bosses. Lance's relatives on the West Coast are living in the lap of luxury while he's living hand to mouth.
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The monsters that Lance encounters throughout Freelance Blues are varied and gruesome. They range from the aforementioned demons and mad scientists, to shark people and garden gnomes. Every chapter includes a different set of beasts that artist Vicki Tierney expertly illustrates. She has a cartoon-like style that fits the humor of the book. Some of this gets to the monsters, such as the vegetarian hippie vampires. They're scary at first, but then they're revealed as mostly harmless.
The bosses are pretty easy to hate before their true colors are revealed. They're mostly smug douchebags that are just waiting to get punched in the face. The one that takes the cake is Hermann, the son of a rich family who personifies everything that normal people dislike about the “bro” culture. Writers Ian Deffern and Mike Leone are able to quickly give you a sense of how to feel about each character, positive or negative, as each one is introduced. It doesn't take long for you to figure out whether or not you'd want to speak to this person at a party.
Freelance Blues speaks to anyone that's ever worked a menial job. Whether you were a cashier, a landscaper, or a test subject, you've probably been in a situation where you hated everything about the gig, especially your boss. That's what Lance's whole life is like, except he ends up fighting monsters by the end of the day, forcing him to find a new job. The cross country trip is a bit odd, given the family emergency that Lance faces. I found myself repeatedly asking why he didn't just suck it up and borrow the cash. Is spending a little more time with your grandfather worth losing a bit of your pride?
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