America’s least favorite girl and her infamous bodyguard are back in the second volume of Crowded: Glitter Dystopia, and the action is still as crazy as the things Charlie decides are good ideas. This time, they take a quiet tube trip to Las Vegas, meet up with an old friend of Charlie’s, and hit the road to meet one of Vita’s old friends. Nothing goes wrong and everything is quiet. No, not really; the combination of Vita and Charlie means that nothing goes right, and there’s a whole lot of shooting. Dog is okay though, don’t worry.
With high action series like this, there can be a problem of keeping up the energy without having to constantly up the ante or getting repetitive. Crowded does a fantastic job of pacing in this volume to keep things moving even when the protagonists are facing gunfire. And this volume has a lot of what could be considered downtime, which could really drag, but it manages to stay engaging. Something fantastic about the writing of Crowded is that though yes, there is interpersonal drama, it doesn’t end up just becoming the same story of people not communicating or blaming others for their problems. There’s definitely still a lot to learn about these two, and their complicated lives means they have complicated relationships.
One of the distinctive things about Crowded is its visual style; the art is dynamic, the color palette very strong, and the paneling inventive. Something that really stood out with the first volume was the sense of motion this comic manages to have, and the team kept that same sense in this volume. It can be easy to feel detached from the action since it’s not moving, but Crowded pulls the reader in, partially due to the fantastic use of expressive onomatopoeia. Words like “krak” or “kaboom” aren’t just shaped to follow the line of the action they’re describing, they’re also textured and colored to simulate that action. A similar dedication to detail is seen in the backgrounds, where things like stickers on Vita’s trunk are always in the right place, text on newspapers is there, shop names are readable. This is then supported by the great color palette and paneling, making a very cohesive whole.
There aren’t really content warnings to speak of for this comic that aren’t typical of action films, but yes there is blood and violence. Lots of guns, but also knives and more inventive or unusual weapons on occasion. This volume also has implied sex, though no visible sex acts other than characters straddling others while fully clothed, cuddling while clothed, and kissing. Some mild cursing, but nothing extreme or unusually offensive, either. One of the other great things about Crowded is that it avoids fatphobic comments and heteronormative assumptions, and seems to actively pursue showing diverse bodies.
One problem however is reading this volume digitally; there are several cases of paneling that crosses both facing pages (the pages the book is open to) which translates very choppily into a digital format, since speech bubbles get cut off only to finish a page later if the ebook is set up just to scroll down rather than page across. Not a huge issue, and of course not specific to this series in particular as many comics like to periodically do a full page spread, but something to consider when purchasing physical versus digital.
Crowded is great for fans of action films, parodies, and criticisms of capitalist culture. Seriously, though this comic is very true to the action genre, it is also incredibly clever and funny. It’s an excellent addition to an adult graphic novel collection to round out offerings that involve action without the grit and grimdark of titles like The Boys or Atomic Blonde, while still definitely being inspired by the genre. Also fantastic for fans of the John Wick franchise, because it also has a bit of that wink and nod to the audience and awareness of the genre it exists within.
Crowded, Vol. 2: Glitter Dystopia
By Christopher Sebela
Art by Ro Stein, Ted Brandt
Publisher Age Rating: T+
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Gay, Queer,