Friday, February 13, 2009

Gisèle Lagacé's "Ménage à 3"

Somewhere in my queue, there are safe for work webcomics. I swear.

Gisèle Lagacé has been kicking around the webcomics world for years now, first as creator of Cool Cat Studio and later as the co-creator and artist for Penny and Aggie, both collaborations with T Campbell. Lagacé goes T-free for her latest endeavor, the Quebecois sex romp Ménage à 3.

Underachieving, undersocialized comic book geek Gary comes home one day to find his two male roommates going at it in the living room. Once he's recovered from the shock of learning his roomies are an item, they break the bad news: they're moving into a new apartment and leaving him behind. Fortunately, Gary's apartment seems to be prime Montreal real estate, because he quickly finds a fresh pair of co-tenants: punky omnisexual Zii and cartoonishly buxom francophone DiDi. The girls move in immediately, transforming Gary's formerly dull life into a very naked subversion of Three's Company.

Lagacé is an enormously talented (and I would assume meticulous) artist whose style has gone from impressive in the early days of Cool Cat Studio to simply eye-popping. She employs a slightly more cartoonish style here than in Penny and Aggie, which is fitting, as Ménage à 3 is less dramedy than sitcom. Lagacé's characters emote with their entire bodies, but she carefully maintains physical consistency even in the most slapsticky moments (Just who, I wonder, is her model for DiDi?). The strip's inherent zaniness also makes Lagacé's frequent visual sidetrips into manga territory feel more at home here than in P&A, though, to be honest, I could do with less of Zii's recurring cat mouth. She's also a pro at moving the camera around, giving Ménage a more cinematic feel than most webcomics.

Lagacé has a great sense of timing and knows how to use each of her four panels for maximum impact. And the characters she's developed are charmingly obnoxious; they're the sorts of people who are fun enough to watch on television, but you'd probably pop them one in the real world. She does however, rely a bit much on archetypes. After all, the comic book geek is a socially awkward virgin; the worldly girl is also a tattooed, unemployed musician; and the slightly dopey (there's a language barrier) sexpot is both boobtastic and blonde. It's not necessarily a bad place to start, but I'd like to see her characters get some depth outside their stereotypes. Zii is, thus far, the most compelling character precisely because she is the least predictable, and she's far more interesting when she's being unexpectedly sweet than when she's horny or scheming.

Ménage also suffers in a big way from the webcomics time problem, wherein time passes much more slowly for the characters than for the readers. The series launched over the summer, but I believe only a few days have transpired since Gary caught his roommates in flagrante. A more introspective comic might get away with tracking its characters that closely, but Ménage is a sitcom and requires discrete, sitcommy storylines. On top of that, very little has occurred during those few days: the roommates have moved in, gone to the park, gone to work, and watched Night of the Living Dead. And the bulk of the action has consisted of Gary and Zii drooling over DiDi, and Zii doing her best to see everyone naked. Sure, sex and nudity are Ménage's primary beat, but as Zii herself points out, the best pornos are the ones that have plotlines.

Ménage à 3 updates Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and is, for obvious reasons, NSFW.

[Ménage à 3]

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