Review: Curveball by Jeremy Sorese

 Let’s start with the basics. Curveball, the first major graphic novel release written and
illustrated by Jeremy Sorese, is the loveliest print object with a spine to
come across my desk this year. Nobrow has pulled out all the stops with this
book; a lovely cover with smartly placed spot gloss, a neon orange belly band, French
flaps, and orange faux-gilding make this book pop on the shelf. It’s easy to
pick out of the crowd.

 Curveball is 420
pages of black, white, and neon orange comics that detail the relationship of the
main character Avery in a science fiction future. Avery is waitstaff/server/busser
on a luxury diner cruise, recently heartbroken by Cristophe, a bulb-nosed sailor
in some sort of futuristic Navy. Christophe is giving Avery the run around, and
Avery is having a meltdown. How Avery moves past the relationship and comes to
terms with what the future looks like is the crux of the story.

 The majority of Sorese’s pages are dark, inky affairs, although
by the looks of it, Sorese is using a variety of media throughout, graphite for
shading and texture being the most prominent. The orange in the story is used
to represent power, which through a relatively unexplained scientific
advancement is recycled and generated through normal activity. We see
futuristic versions of policemen and rent-a-cops, coffee makers, and libraries.
Sorese’s imagination for the future is a detail oriented one, and this fleshed
out universe makes the world seem a little more real. But while Sorese’s comics
are science fiction, it’s clear that what is most important isn’t the hyperrealistic,
thin-lined sci-fi futures of creators like Moebius or Lando, but the
relationships between the characters that exist in this future.

 Sorese uses some formal elements to give us more information
about the characters, the most prominent is the stylized lettering that lets us
know that Avery has picked up on or is mimicking the way that Christophe laughs.
That same lettering also gives us the greatest understanding of the break
point, when Avery gets over Christophe. It’s a smart choice.

 Sorese’s science fiction, to some extent, acts as an
antithesis to the genre as I’ve come to understand it. Books full of technical
writing and jargon are about a dime a dozen, and basically dead on arrival,
cold corpses on a slab. But in Curveball,
Sorese has created a science fiction book that is teeming with life; skip the
details on the way an entire city can be uploaded into the cloud, and give me
the smiling tears of two friends in crisis, knowing the other  is safe. This focus is amplified by Sorese’s
gorgeous art, which delights in thick, curvy lines and heavily cartooned

Despite the lovely futuristic setting, it would be specious to call Curveball a utopian book. Certainly this
future looks nicer, but the energy delivery system is in need of some major
overhaul, and a secret war is being waged right under the characters’ noses.  Curveball
feels like a post-9/11 book; the anxieties of war are hiding in plain sight,
and affecting the characters throughout this story. Despite the anxiety of war
and the secret nature of some of the events in the background of Curveball, hope remains a key element of
Sorese’s storytelling. Avery’s hope that everything is going to work out with
Christophe is the most misguided of these, but the hope for safety, friendship,
love, or understanding weaves its way throughout the story.

 I am enraptured by Sorese’s Curveball. It is clearly one of the best science fiction stories I’ve
read this year, and up there with some of the best stories I’ve read this year,
period. 2015 has been a great year for science fiction – Sophie Goldstein’s The Oven and K Czap’s Futchi Perf have been a real joy, and
have shared some similar elements. But Curveball is the nightcap of 2015’s
sci-fi comics, the grand finale; a gorgeous comic, beautifully illustrated,
full of heart. Recommended.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Jereme Sorese @jeremysorese is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer of the popular Steven Universe comic for Boom! Studios. You can find Sorese’s website here.

Nobrow Press (tumblr: @nobrowpress ) is an independent press based in London & New York that publishes art books, comics, and picture books under their Flying Eye Books imprint. 

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