Plastic is par for the course for mainstream American comics. The only female presence on the book is the colorist, and the only women in the comic exist as mentions (the protagonist’s mother and another character’s dead wife). This is a comic that refuses to pretend: the only visual representation of a woman is a literal fucktoy someone thought clever enough to name “Virginia,” her mouth forever agape and too often splattered with cream filling the reader is left to assume came from donuts the protagonist “fed” her. To be clear, I feel “once” would be “too often,” but Daniel Hillyard drew that image at least three times.
To his credit, Hillyard has an impressive command of facial expressions, but his style is largely forgettable, with the scene of brutal violence reading like little more than mid-brutality Invincible pages lightboxed from Ryan Ottley.
When it comes time to render Virginia on the page, the doll looks more like a human whose skin features occasional clothing-like folds, as if he drew a human woman and left those folds to be the only barrier between character and sex doll. Perhaps if there were another woman in issue there could be some kind of comparison, there could be some indication that Plastic believes there to be a difference between a woman and a sex object. I feel as though Laura Martin at least tried to give Virginia’s “skin” a kind of plasticity through her coloring — there’s a slight glare on the doll’s shoulder in one of the panels — but it mostly comes off as shadows cast by Hillyard’s folds.
The art of Plastic could be brilliant and it would still carry with it the dead-eyed stare of a Realdoll, however. Doug Wagner is credited for “story,” such as it is. Critiquing the story of this first issue is a bit difficult, though, and in order to understand why, I think you need to read the solicit text:
Retired serial killer Edwyn Stoffgruppen is in love with Virginia, a girl he “met online.” Her affection quiets his vile urges. Together, they tour the back roads of America in their LTD, eating doughnuts and enjoying their healthy appetites for each other. Life is good…until a Louisiana billionaire kidnaps Virginia, forcing Edwyn to kill again in exchange for her freedom. Oh, and did we mention that Virginia is a sex doll?
There is no Edwyn Stoffgruppen in Plastic #1, nor are there any serial killers, and the only indication we have that the protagonist has any “vile urges” comes from his outburst of violence in the middle of the book. Touring the back roads of America? It looks more like they have found a spot to park rather than fuck at home. And then we have the Louisiana billionaire who, for all we know, is vacationing wherever Plastic takes place and somehow would rather blackmail the man who violently assaulted his son than hire a proper hitman to kill a family.
Knowing that solicit text actually explains something about the comic — I wouldn’t say it adds depth, but it at least explains things — but that is not included in the text and leaves the comic feeling like a disconnected mess where Action A leads to Action B because, well, it has to or else the plot won’t go forward, and Unnamed Billionaire enlists Violent CIA Man Calling Himself Victor to do his bidding because otherwise there’s not a story. When it feels like your story is an excuse to have someone draw whipped cream on the edge of a sex doll’s mouth, maybe you should just hang it up.
There are lots of garbage comics out there in the world, though–lots of garbage everything, really — so why tear into Plastic when I could be playing Breath of the Wild? Because I’m tired. I’m so, so tired. Comics is a dumpster fire. Plastic #1 just got printed with Image Comics’ “The Future of Comics” logo on its cover, and there seem to be a not insignificant number of people who want the comics of the future to be written and drawn by men, to have the only women between their covers appear as sex objects, and to be able to be forgiven for barely being able to string a couple dozen pages together. I’d like a different future, myself. It felt like there were a few years where Image was cultivating a kind of aesthetic among their publications, but books like Plastic need to be shitcanned at the pitch stage for Image to feel more like a proper publisher and less like a vanity press that will print nonsense like this as long as it doesn’t lose them money.