The latest ‘National Comics’ one-shot – essentially a pilot for a potential series – features Rose Canton, a former mental patient trying to make it as a normal high school student. As if that weren’t daunting enough, her pesky alternate personality, a bad girl named Thorn, is complicating things. Rose awakens to find herself covered in someone else’s dry blood and discovers she’s now sporting a tramp stamp with her alter ego’s name on it. Once at school, she pieces together that Thorn went out with the popular kids and got into some trouble. She finds out that Thorn made out with popular boy Troy, who is mysteriously absent from school. Later, Rose further discovers that she tried to make out with her best friend, mousy student Melinda. Rose later gets a Facebook friend request from Thorn and discovers some incriminating photos on her page. Later, Rose goes to Troy’s house and gets mental flashes to having been there before… and doing some pretty outrageous things. (That explains that tramp stamp.) Things wrap up with a flashback and we learn Rose’s father was killed and Thorn seems to know by whom and why. His death is also what drove Rose into a mental institution in the first place.
As a pilot, this works perfectly well. Rose and a full roster of supporting characters are introduced and lots of seeds are planted that could be developed into future story lines. The art by Neil Googe isn’t the typical fare, but it’s good and works quite well here. The dialogue is very good as well and as far as modern high school life, I think this is pretty faithful. The mystery aspect is a tad confusing, as the reader is scrambling to understand what has transpired alongside Rose, but once it’s all said and done, it all makes sense.
I commend DC for continuing to produce books that aren’t your typical super hero titles. This, if it goes to series, would be a totally unique comic – a CW-style teen drama.
The one thing that put me off about this book, however, is the subject matter and the fact that mental illness is such a heavy factor. Back when I first started writing for sciencefiction.com, I wrote this article, which was based on an article posted by the New York Times, which drew attention to the fact that comics basically present negative and potentially harmful depictions of mental illness. Therefore, I’m kind of sensitive to these things. I’m just not into “crazy chick” fiction, whether it’s ‘Black Swan’ or ‘Suckerpunch’. Do some guys have a “thing” for “crazy chicks” or something? Is that a thing? The idea that this otherwise normal-but-unpopular girl has an alter ego that’s a wild, promiscuous party girl sounds like some sort of fantasy thing, which kind of put me off.
Overall, this is a solid book built on a premise that I simply don’t care for. Good luck to the creators, but if this becomes a series, I wouldn’t follow it.
NATIONAL COMICS: ROSE & THORN #1
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Neil Googe
Cover by Ryan Sook