FIRST ISSUE: LOLA XOXO
An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.
Lola XOXO is a good example of a first issue that is too cryptic and therefore incomprehensible and not likely to bring anyone back for seconds. Except for the pictures: Siya Oum draws as well as writes the title, and her rendering of the toothsome heroine is the book’s biggest attraction — as you might be able to tell from the cover and an interior page posted at your eye’s elbow.
You can tell Oum likes drawing better than writing. And since comics are a visual art, that’s a plus.
When the story begins, Lola is a little girl in an airport being sent off to visit her grandmother by her parents, who, it soon develops, will be in New York when it is attacked and destroyed by terrorists. These opening pages give us a little girl cute beyond measure and a tearful parting from her father and mother; and there’s more of this than is good for us.
Then we leap 10-12 years into the future and see the erstwhile little girl now grown up and leggy in cut-offs, looking for her parents. She buys an apple at a sidewalk fruit stand, using bullets as money, is given a horse (or is it a bicycle?) by some friends, witnesses a circus act, goes for a ride on her horse, visits a bar where she’s accosted by some sex fiends and beats them up but they’re too numerous—and on the last page, a handsome dude arrives and says: “So — you’re the horse thief.”
All of Oum’s handsome men (except the last guy, who has a van dyke) look petty much the same — like her father, another impossibly handsome guy — which adds to the confusion: one of these guys appears to be a kind of guardian who adopted Lola when he learned, that day in the airport, that her parents were in the smoking ruins of New York City. But I can’t be sure. As I said, all the handsome guys look alike.
Lola apparently lives with the guardian guy and a few others of his cohorts out in the “wastelands”? And they survive by herding horses? These are too many unanswered questions for a first issue. And the circus interlude is inexplicable.
The final episode — a bar fight — shows Lola a capable scrapper. Admirable. And she’s good-looking in an almost pristine feminine way. The pictures are the best part of the book. They look as if they’ve been shot directly from pencils, no inking, which gives them a nice soft appearance. Nicely done, Oum. But your story is too mysterious.