Spaghetti Midwestern: Bricked – Keith Pakiz

2 out of 5

Not being much of a Western viewer, I might be missing some good ol’ references amongst Bricked’s 170 pages to classics or tropes from the genre.  But I feel like the title is more there just to highlight and quirk the ‘Midwestern’ term: Keith Pakiz’s comic revels in a particular era and lifestyle that, at least for me, is very identifiable with growing up there: of walking home through the woods from school; of poking at roadkill with sticks; packed lunches; getting questioned on your day by your Dad.

Not that that’s necessarily midwestern, but I think the title works to kick you into a suburbs mindset, and prep your imagination for the fictional worlds our put-upon (…mostly due to his own actions) lead, Hap, creates.  This works: Bricked’s wandering structure, which has Hap forcefully trying to find a friend, leading him through a fateful day that involves multiple after-school fights and a runaway attempt, layered with the kid’s very Calvin and Hobbes-esque imaginary extrapolation explorations, never feels disruptive for the reader; you get it.

The C and H reference, with Hap’s stuffed Octopus pal as his own ‘Hobbes,’ may be a purposeful jab on Pakiz’s behalf: Hap is kinda dumb; his ‘adventures’ are not to be admired.  This is almost the anti-Calvin and Hobbes: do not try this stuff at home.  Do not think having a brick thrown at your head will allow you to drift off to happy dream land.  Do not think that jumping off the roof will allow you to travel to space.  There is no moral.  Hap maybe makes some friends, but he’s still mostly a snot.  And that, from afar, is all pretty funny.  Unfortunately, Pakiz doesn’t dig deep enough into the possible satire or commentary of that to make the actual read too engaging.  While in your in the middle of it, any opportunity that could be explored for growth is instead used to prove that, once again, Hap kinda sucks.  Even his imagination feels rather limited: he repeats one underwater setting, and his other worlds are rather barren.  Pakiz also runs rampant with panel layout abuse, reversing panels and doing round-the-clock layouts on a whim.  Sometimes this works to make for a really expressive page, but often it just confuses matters.  Which is a shame, because his incredibly loosey-goosey style and splashed water colors are otherwise brilliant, and fun to look at.

Had Bricked been cleaned up a bit in terms of tone, or shortened and played more as a gag, Pakiz could get away with his manic paneling.  As a long-form story, after a couple Hap-is-mean-and-goes-to-dreamland go-rounds, you’re put out wondering what the intention is.  Indeed, it might just be for Keith to relive (or possibly excise…) some memories at his character’s expense.  It can be funny and inventive in moments (admittedly, the final panel offers up a pretty good joke) but it ends up feeling like a repeated riff that could’ve been condensed to something shorter and more concise..