Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book we just can’t seem to get enough of. This week Arpad recommends the collected edition of ‘Cloudia & Rex’, from Buño and the Magnetic Collection at Lion Forge Comics.
By Arpad Okay. I am living for this comic. Cloudia & Rex does a fantastic job of capturing the family unit with subtlety, insight, and tenderness. It’s a touch sad but still quite funny throughout. And, even after the protagonists get turned into Supergirl and a talking woolly rhinoceros, it’s too real. The dialog is spot on. The family bond is tested and found perfect. Cloudia, moody teen, is the right mix of innocent and indignant. Rex is uninhibited, fearless, a blast of optimism that keeps things buoyant. Their mom, who may be the real hero here, navigates the toughest of choices to do what’s best for her babies.
Smashing up against this trio is a familiar-yet-bizarre community made from a diverse draw of mythologies. The aesthetic has a penchant for multiple arms, wings, wearing translucent body capes made of constellations. The pantheon is Greek, Persian, African, pre-Columbian, Yokai, Harryhausen. Thanatos and Hypnos, the twins Death and Dream, set out with Zurvan, Time, to save their world. Their land beyond mortality is charmingly casual in a Terry Pratchett vein, or would be if it wasn’t being torn apart.
Monotheism is in the house, and their agents are destroying everything. Death, Dream, and everyone who would go with them, cross over into our world to escape absorption by Seraphim, and are pursued. Thing is, in their attempt to escape, they end up inhabiting the family. Superpower the angsty teen, transform the dreamy child, and trap the rest of the gods inside a smartphone. The premise is delightful, the execution brilliant: an interface of God-as-app is quirky and hilarious. Giving normal kids heavenly powers ends up being low key scary — as it ought to be. With the agents of immortal destruction on their heels, the powers they’ve been granted are matched by those in pursuit and it falls on the mortals to use human innovation, wit, and reliance on the family bond to save… well, all of existence.
Cloudia & Rex is psychedelic in its visuals, the gods and world tree, the burning sword of the End. The art is stylish and gets it all across flawlessly. It is lighthearted, just on the serious side of cartoonish, innovative, and professional. The linework is clear, versatile, indie. A little bit like Chris Bachalo, but the creative team’s regular work on books with 2000AD characters fuels a distinct weirdness that comes shining through. The colors are great. Lisa Frank eyeshadow palettes at sunset. Meticulously managed keys. Cloudia & Rex glows. The temptation to overwork the lettering because of the panoply of deities is left unexploited. The mortals have their set, the immortals have the same inverted, the phone a third, digitized and bemojied. The thought that went into each part of the narrative lifts up the whole.
And then there’s time. Fighting the inevitable when you literally are time allows escape. Cloudia & Rex messes with cause, effect, and narrative, folding the story over itself backwards, simultaneously witnessing and altering the past. I can’t say I’ve seen this before in comics. The reveals you didn’t realize you needed don’t change the characters’ perspective, but they do affect the reader. For a three-issue miniseries, Cloudia & Rex manages to fit in a ton of concepts, characters, and moods without being dense. It is succinct and it is powerful.
The hard-hitting truth that drives the story is this: a mortal life is enough. You don’t need to go back and redo or unwrite the past. You need to remember and cherish it. Within you, the past is endless. I can think of no better avatars to bear these epiphanies than Death, Dream, and Time. All this lies beneath the surface of Cloudia & Rex, revealing itself when you look at the story through them, not over-explained as I’ve done in this review. A book that bears multiple reads, that flourishes with them. It’s an all-ages gourmet feast, one that leaves the reader utterly satiated. Every element — family, mythology, stakes — grasped, mastered, and served.
Buño/Lion Forge Comics/$9.99
Written by Ulises Fariñas and Erick Freitas.
Art by Daniel Irizarri.