Friday, May 23, 2008

Bellen! Appeals to the Romantic Malcontent in Us All


In the taxonomy of webcomics, there are your dinosaur/video game/ninja comics, your character-driven serials, your diary comics. But Bellen!, Box Brown's comic about a couple (the eponymous Ben and Ellen), defies simple classification. More than a genre, Bellen! captures a mood, those strange spaces where two people are alone with each other and start to go a little crazy.

Ben is an artist (I strongly suspect he resembles his creator) who makes frequent note of the promise and absurdity of life, often in a shouty bold font. It is up to his better half Ellen to endure his pontifications, counter with some wisdom of her own, or defuse his bad moods with a kiss and a pat on the head. Sometimes Bellen! is wonderfully zany, like peering inside a brain drowning in 80s pop culture and comic book panels, but many of the installments take place in the secret world of couples, that place where frustration meets adoration and where the saddest, most obnoxious things about people are the things we love the most.