by James Harvey
James Harvey is likely to be a name that becomes quickly familiar in the comic book industry following the release of Masterplasty in print format. Harvey, who already has two more titles in the works at different publishers, releases his first print book this month, and it is sure to grab some attention. In the book, the main character, Tomo, undergoes an operation to be more attractive. Harvey, who draws and colors the book as well, presents a story that touches on the ideas of beauty, fortune and happiness.
From the cover image, its abstract but visually compelling composition, Masterplasty is the type of book that will cause a reader to pause and take notice. Harvey is smart to follow with a very simple but captivating first sequence. Readers enter on a conversation amongst friends about the attractiveness of individuals as an underlying influence in peer groups. The book’s lead, Tomo, is staring off and later he explains that if he were any more attractive, he certainly would find himself in better company. Skip forward and in this world, a procedure exists where manipulating cartilage can create massive physical transformation to the entire human form. Harvey has some fun over the next few pages depicting the gross and weird mutations that Tomo undergoes in search of the perfect form.
Harvey has a lot going on in this short one-shot book. Masterplasty goes beyond the idea of attractiveness and its storyline touches on areas that are increasingly relevant to society today. Plastic surgeries and other cosmetic alterations in pursuit of the perfect self are what follow in the narrative. Harvey’s story moves forward pretty quickly, finding Tomo in a relationship with another similarly altered human being and the result of such a lifestyle.
The flow and pace of the story keep the book from feeling too weighed down or preachy, but the subtext is there. It is, as a result, that many readers may not really consider the concepts and ethical questions Harvey implies until they reach the end of the issue. As a result, he deserves a lot of credit for being able to raise such concepts and questions about beauty and perfection, but allow the reader to navigate the book first and contemplate these ideas after.
Harvey’s visual style is rather unique. Not only does Harvey have a distinct voice in how he renders his characters, but also the book’s format itself is a step away from the traditional comic book from a hand-lettered panel depicting an email to the panel layouts and the varying art techniques. At times the book looks very modern, and other panels borrow from pop art. What is most impressive is how effortlessly it appears to work. Harvey’s choices, when looked at individually, sound as though they could challenge and turn readers away. But when it all comes together, Masterplasty is a fantastic debut.