Review: Operation Margarine
My first experience with Katie Skelly and her work was at the Contemporary Erotic Comics panel at TCAF 2014; Operation Margarine was a book that was on my radar for the show, but Skelly had already run out of copies by the end of the first day – a happy occurrence for her, but it meant that it took me a little while to procure a copy.
Operation Margarine is 104 pages of black and white comics with a two color soft cover. The book plate very charmingly reads “Ex Libris, Mother F@$%er” and foretells the attitudes prevalent inside. Two tough girls, Margarine and Bon-Bon, have escaped the confines of the big city and have been riding their motorcycles through the desert. Both are dealing with a past that they’d rather forget all together. But previous actions come back to haunt the pair, with disastrous consequences.
Skelly uses stark blacks and whites and with that palette, the two heroines are opposite sides of the spectrum – Margarine is illustrated with a white dress or white pea coat, while Bon-Bon is generally illustrated with a black leather jacket. The simplicity of the standard black/white, evil/good dichotomy is alluring, but I don’t think it’s very accurate – both Bon-Bon and Margarine have their strengths and weaknesses as characters, and both show capacity for both good and bad.
The art of Operation Margarine is likewise very stylized, using block white and black to create her scenes. One of the things I noticed was Skelly’s use of dramatic waves around the main characters as they interact with motorcycles. The motorcycle is a key aspect of Operation Margarine and seems to represent free will throughout the book. In scenes where Bon-Bon gets out of the city by stealing her ex’s motorcycle, or when Margarine learns to ride a motorcycle on the fly, both are exerting their independence from the people that have tossed them aside or locked them up.
Operation Margarine seems like a genre story, but I think it works best when read through the lens of companionship and independence. The characters go from having nothing to lose to having a lot to lose in a very short space; they also reject the social structures that keep them captive and strike out on their own.
I think what is most effective about Operation Margarine is the transition from loner to partner, the change from passive to active. This is a story about two women finding their freedom together and taking what is theirs, despite the consequences.
Operation Margarine is published by AdHouse Books and can be purchased now from their webstore, if so desired. You can also get a signed copy from Katie Skelly herself. Skelly’s other comics, like Nurse Nurse, can be found at her website.