Writer/Artist: Oscar Zarate
Release Date: March 18, 2014
The Park is an excellent example of a work of art that’s agreeable in philosophy yet annoying in practice. Sometimes, those who share our cherished political or moral beliefs are not necessarily the best and most subtle at expressing those credos. Writer/artist Oscar Zarate’s cover, which shows four of characters cordoned in white boxes opposite one another, hints at the thrust of his book: we are always divided from one another, perhaps? Or: there is no true connection in this world?
The titular park garners praise because it supports a diversity of life, both human and animal. This menagerie converges in the middle of the city for peaceful recreation and connection, but Zarate works to show the park as a paradise violated. An aging and increasingly aggressive dog bites a stranger. Its owner, a blowhard and professional pundit, sees the bite victim kick his pet and reacts with further violence. Events spiral slowly out of control, with tribalistic anger, miscommunication, lies, secrets and blog posts all stirring the pot.
The philosophy on display is essentially “Why can’t we all just get along, dudes?” Alternatively, one could read it as a more biblical take on contemporary England, where the story is set: “Man is a fallen animal who desecrates the beauty of nature.” The almost unrelenting bad news builds to an end that isn’t earned in any way, just a pile on of awfulness. There is a way to express the pessimism of human nature more delicately. As it is, the characters’ seething panel-after-panel is equal parts exhausting and irritating, the equivalent of a nagging itch that’s never satisfied after hours of failed attempts. Despite the few moments of genuine connection, The Park doesn’t inspire a complete read-through.
Zarate attempts to create well-rounded characters, and viewed as a collection of attributes, they are. The aforementioned pundit seems to switch his stance depending on political winds. He also loves his dog and his daughter. The mild-mannered musician manages to stand up for himself. The problem is that none of the players breathe with actual life; they all speak in similar voices. Even the pacifist is only one bad day away from a fistfight with a stranger. The watercolors are likewise abstractly lovely, especially in two-page spreads that show the park brimming with life and action. But the art also fails to capture the three-dimensional. While The Park holds flashes of promise, the stilted characters and art ultimately lead to a disappointing journey.