A few weeks ago, I reviewed the first issue of the second arc of the Glitterbomb series, “Glitterbomb: The Fame Game.” It wasn’t until after submitting my review that I found out that this was the second arc of an existing franchise that finished up its primary narrative in 2016. This now left me curious to revisit the first part of the story, not only to fill in some plot holes I may have missed from this second arc, but to see if it changed my initial review of “The Fame Game.” Not only did my appreciation of “The Fame Game” deepen, but I have even more questions that I hope are answered in “The Fame Game” — or even subsequent narrative threads.
(Warning: contains spoilers, and some panels contains NSFW language.)
Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated by Djibril Morissette-Phan
Colored by K. Michael Russell and Ludwig Olimba
Lettered by Marshall Dillon
What would you do to be famous? And moreover, what would you do to keep that fame burning when the world changes around you? Farrah Wethers is an actress who is a senior citizen by Hollywood standards — a woman in her 40s. She rose to stardom as a young adult on a Star Trek-esque TV show, but while some of her coworkers have found later success, Farrah is struggling — not just with acting work, but with raising her young son Marty as a single mother. After her last failed audition, Farrah takes a walk on the beach and is visited by a presence in the water that awakens her most primordial anger and encourages her to rage against all who have held her back and done her wrong. It’s a shock for Farrah at first — but a side that she quickly embraces with zeal. From a homeless man to her agent to the costar that saw lasting success (and took away her innocence) to the industry that both embraced her and then left her out with the trash, Farrah exacts her Lovecraftian vengeance on the world, even with those closest to her (babysitter Kaydon Klay, who we get to know more in “The Fame Game”, close friend Dean Slotkin, son Marty) confused and concerned for Farrah. When the dust clears from the most rampant and extensive of Farrah’s machinations, no one is safe and everyone is changed.
Reading this book in light of both the various Hollywood scandals of late and the release of season 2 of Stranger Things has proven interesting, and perhaps more contemporary than expected. More than once I’ve see the face of Rose McGowan or any other Hollywood actress in place of Farrah, and Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey in place of any number of men in Farrah’s Hollywood life — wishing the former would go full on Eleven with Tentacles on these men! Jim Zub has put together a wonderful series meditating on what fame can do to you, a cautionary tale of the price we pay to become immortal in the eyes of the entertainment industry.
“Glitterbomb” is also a tale of feminine empowerment, albeit with a very supernatural twist. While the men in the Glitterbomb world do nothing more than offer platitudes or throw money at problems, it’s the women who provide the emotional and mental labor. Farrah is a single mother, with Marty’s father nowhere in sight. Kaydon herself is both being raised by a single parent and being the de facto mother in Marty’s life. In the final pages at a memorial/fundraiser for Farrah’s costar Cliff, killed at her own hands, she takes the time to offer whispered warning and assurances to other young actresses so that they may not fall on the wrong side of her life lessons. Who run this world? Girls, no doubt.
The world that Zub has created here also leaves open many more questions and avenues to explore. “The Fame Game” is bringing us Kaydon’s story, which is starting to eerily parallel that of her employer and mentor, but there are many more that deserve some attention in the second arc, or worthy of their own series:Continued below
- When Farrah first meets the demon in the ocean, the greeting is “welcome back.” Has it visited Farrah before, perhaps unsuccessfully? Or is the demon seeingher as just any other generic down-on-her-luck over-the-hill-for Hollywood-actress?
- Are there more out there like Farrah, and are men and women taken over by this presence reacting differently to it, both in how it affects them and the attacks on others?
- Marty seems to be somewhat of a omnipotent child. While watching the horror of Farrah’s attack on her former co-star Cliff Stadden’s memorial/charity fundraiser, Marty matter-of-factly says early on, “Momma’s gone.” He didn’t even want Kaydon to try and check on Farrah, he just knew. Is this child some sort of savant with telepathic abilities, a toddler wiser than he appears…or just happening to say the right thing at the right time?
I sense and hope Mr. Zub has more stories to tell; there’s a great franchise birthed within these pages.
If Jim Zub provides great storytelling, Djibril-Morissette Phan and K. Michael Russell use the art to bring out the paranormal elements. Without it, “Glitterbomb” is just a tale of one very scorned woman and the hell she raises loose. Their artwork makes this unique. The reader does not see the corporeal being in the water that Farrah sees — just a voice and a presence. It’s left to the reader’s imagination as to what physical form this demon takes, if that is even necessary. (Part of that is what led to my second question above — is this demon different things to different people?) Letting your mind craft what lurks in those waters makes the subsequent pages even more frightening.
Even more demonic is the demon’s takeover of Farrah — she retains her beauty (which, by conventional standards, is still stunning) and convinces her victims that all is normal right up until the moment of attack, when her eyes turn black and her mouth turns into tentacle glory. (It’s also nice to see that the tentacles are good tenants of their host vessel, making sure to clean Farrah up after the initial meeting with the unknown.) In her final hours of life, Phan gives us a face that is even more serene and beautiful than ever, amplifying the horror that is to come.
Outside of Phan’s depiction of the paranormal, you can see fine hand in other elements. Flashback scenes show a touch of innocence and good looks that Farrah does retain into middle age, just not enough for a successful acting career. We do not see much of her costar Cliff before he meets his end, but he has the rugged good looks of a silver fox along the lines of Mad Men’s John Slattery, a silver fox who can work Hollywood’s double standard of sexiness for men. The background of Hollywood themselves start out as what you would expect them to be (swimming pools, movie stars, cloudless skies) but there’s nothing about them that sparkles fame and fortune; the detail is that of any generic large American city. Is this the reader’s peek under the veil of the sparkly Hollywood from movies and TV? Perhaps.
Praise is also due to K. Michael Russell’s colors. This isn’t your bright beautiful Southern California — it’s muted, a little darker, a little grittier, certainly not what popular culture has sold you on Hollywood to be. Color also heightens action — a full panel bathed in red after Farrah kills her agent, sepia tones with an orange base to show flashbacks to the days of Space Farers, blues for moments when Farrah is filled with confusion and despair. Panel and layout is also sharp, using small panels shaped like TV screens connected with zigzag lines meant to convey the pace of flipping channels, and thus, the short attention span of the media.
The single issues of each comic featured an essay about the film industry to enlighten those not familiar with the trade, a trend continuing in “The Fame Game.” While those individual pieces are not collected here, the collected trade provides four compelling and (once again) exceptionally opportune personal stories of the underbelly of film and TV.Continued below
Does reading the first arc of “Glitterbomb” change my understanding of “The Fame Game?” Indeed it does. Would I rewrite my review of the debut of “The Fame Game?” If given the chance, yes. Am I worried for Kaydon Klay as she deals with the fame she so desired now thrust upon her from the tragedy of the first series? Absolutely.