Blanche the Baby Killer #0

By S. Kwon
72 pages, black and white
Published by Bong’s Quality Meats

A title and a cover is all it can take, sometimes. I’m not sure which grabbed me first: the title of the book being Blanche the Baby Killer, or the image of Blanche in a factory-worker’s outfit splattered in a black substance. Now I know, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover; that way often leads disaster. But what can I say? Sometimes, that’s all the lure you need.

The People’s Republic of China has occupied the country, but that’s the least of Blanche’s worries. She’s stuck in a horrible factory job where when she’s not decapitating chickens, her boss is sexually harassing her. When Blanche can’t take it any more, the repercussions will manage to push her even lower on the social totem pole, if that’s possible. Then a stranger offers her a partial solution to her problems if he just does her a favor… and that’s when Blanche’s life gets stranger.

It’s hard to categorize Blanche the Baby Killer, because at times it’s not entirely clear what creator S. Kwon wants it to be. Is it a story about a woman killing demons using a Chinese occupation of the United States as a backdrop? Or is it a story about a woman struggling to survive in an oppressive society that gets pulled into situations that are over her head and is quite possible insane? I’d have been happy with just one or the other, to be honest, and if you tear Blanche the Baby Killer into two different books, each is a lot stronger as a result. Kwon does a great job of intuiting what a Chinese occupation would be like, and applies a real sense of dread over the landscape. The idea of Blanche being pulled into demon-hunting also works in its own right, and while it’s not quite as strong, I can see the potential for future stories in this vein. The two halves of Blanche the Baby Killer seem to be at war, though, each struggling for the reader’s attention with equal force. If there are to be future installments, one side or the other needs to be turned down a notch, because it’s not only distracting, but actually diminishes the impact of either angle. Too many ideas crammed into a single work is just going to overwhelm the reader; it’s better to save some of them for future projects.

Kwon’s art in Blanche the Baby Killer, though, is strong from start to finish. Kwon draws a great “average Jane” in the form of Blanche, with her freckled cheeks and stringy hair. By making Blanche normal-looking instead of supermodel-beautiful, it’s easier to project yourself into the story, with a sort of “this could happen to you” feel about the book. A lot of attention to detail is on display here, from the outfits of the factory workers to the look of the occupation army. It’s a very internally consistent look and feel. Kwon also handles the more fantastical elements of Blanche the Baby Killer with equal ease. From gigantic eyeballs staring at Blanche to demonic creators crawling up buildings, each one is creepier than the previous.

Blanche the Baby Killer is an interesting if slightly-flawed book. Kwon’s got a lot of good ideas here, but the need to focus on one or the other is more and more apparent with each page. The amount of potential on display here is enough that I can see why the Xeric Foundation funded it, and I’m certainly interested in seeing if Kwon does more Blanche the Baby Killer (as insinuated by the #0 on the front cover), because with just a little more work it’s going to knock everyone out. Definitely worth your time to take a look and decide for yourself.

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