Karen is kind of a tricky girl.

Story

Damn Karen by Francis Ortolan tells a story about a woman who appears insensitive and upfront. The first chapter offers some insight into some thoughts that everyone may have now and then… but certainly not to Karen’s extremes –I hope. Karen’s insensitive attitude in otherwise sensitive events can appear humorous at times, but it can quickly cross the line into shock. A factor I believe Ortolan was utilizing.

Many of the scenarios that Karen finds herself in could be considered relatable in some sense. The way she reacts to those situations is what separates her from the audience. She isn’t exactly a loveable character all the time. But she does have her moments.

Aside from Karen’s deepest darkest thoughts, one thing that stood out to me is how little the world that Karen lives in is explained. There are some odd events that occur that I’m not sure if I should just accept it as part of the world, or if I should actually be concerned. Ortolan mixed a weird variety of genres into one story, and it doesn’t sit all that well for me.

Dinosaurs, ghosts, magic, and arcades. I just don’t know…

Each page can stand alone in the first chapter but still envelops an overall story. This doesn’t follow through in newer chapters however, as the story picks up and takes on a solid plot. Honestly, I like this tactic. It allows for a quick fun read for new readers, and as the plot develops slowly, the readers don’t even realize they fell right into a plot-based story.

Writing

As easy as it is to follow along with the plot and what is happening with each conversation, the grammar errors are definitely in the higher range of awful. The fact that the comic is still readable comes down to the brains amazing ability to fill in gaps in sentences when words are missing.

This grammar is nonsense.

As much as I don’t want to be harsh to comic creators, there are certain things that I can’t let slide. Grammar and spelling is definitely one of them as it is such an easy fix. All you need is someone to proofread the story for you. A lot of these errors could have been avoided. I recommend consulting with someone about the grammar.

Some of the sentences also appear slightly awkward. It isn’t terrible, but if the words are arranged a bit (and missing words are added), then conversations would flow more smoothly between characters.

Like I said, this comic is definitely not illegible, so it just comes down to watching out for the errors that separate Ortolan’s work from professional work.

Art

Let’s talk about something a bit more positive shall we?

Damn Karen is a very visually appealing comic. Ortolan uses bold, beautiful colours to capture the scenes, with clean lines to really pull each page together. Expert use of paneling also shows that Ortolan’s talent lies in his artwork. The incorporation of abstract concepts really adds to the overall presence of the comic.

 

Ortolan also pulled a simple trick out of his hat that a lot of artists forget: time. This is something that is overlooked a lot of the time. A great way to represent time is by having a clock in the corner of a scene that shows how many minutes have passed during a conversation, or as Ortolan utilized, the sun setting. It is subtle enough that it doesn’t distract the reader from the story, and yet just noticeable enough to give a clear representation of time.

Although there are some angling errors –which inevitably lead to proportion errors– Damn Karen has some great angle shots in general that really capture the emotions in a scene. Always take advantage of those angles as they really can change the way a scene is interpreted by the audience. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new angles, either. Shading and light can also be used to capture a scene’s emotional impact.

Dramatic lighting and angling emphasize the emotions Karen feels in this particular scene.

Finally, Ortolan pulls another trick out, this time from his sleeve (because apparently I have a magician theme today), to demonstrate how easily it can be to get the reader to focus on particular things in a panel. In Damn Karen, this is seen with blurred out and faded backgrounds. The attention is focused directly on the conversation between the characters, showing some of the irrelevance of the information provided in the background.

“Could you get me the… uh… sorry, I seem to have forgotten my glasses.”

Conclusion

Although I have some issues with the grammar in Damn Karen, Francis Ortolan manages to pull a relatively insensitive, yet humorous comic out of his pocket (damn these magicians). Ortolan also creates some fabulous art that really helps you forget about some of the areas in need of improvement.

If you enjoy comics that don’t fit into a specific genre and like to break the conventional rules of loveable characters, you should check out Damn Karen by Francis Ortolan.


 

Check out Damn Karen by Francis Ortolan here