Subjective Ramblings and Peripheral Thoughts from the Edges of a Comics Studies Project
Writer Brian Wood, perhaps most famous for his activist comics Channel Zero and DMZ, and artist Brett Weldele, who has also worked on the graphic novel prequel trilogy to the movie Southland Tales, published the short graphic novel Couscous Express in 2001. The story about sixteen-year-old Olive Yassin – spoiled scooter enthusiast and delivery girl for her parents’ restaurant – is simple and overdone: her parents get shaken down by the Turkish mafia, a leader of which is her mother’s ex-boyfriend from years ago who claims that she has stolen her award-winning and revenue-generating recipes from his family. Things escalate when Olive’s boyfriend Moustafa, and his cohorts step in and stop the mafia from hurting Olive and her parents. Soon thereafter, Olive secures a weapon from Mousatafa’s partner Special and, proving to be a crack shot from the first, sets off a gang war by attacking the Turks (and blowing up one of their vans with a hand grenade). The mafia kidnaps her parents in retaliation, leading to a chase and a stand-off, in which everything is resolved (there seems to be no legal repercussions or fall-out of any kind).
The writing and characters lack definition and the artwork is simple, almost crude. Some might find it charming, but to me it disturbs the reading flow when the action is served up with too little detail. Several wide-angle establishing shots are black-and-white photographs with reduced definition, making them blurry and slightly cartoony. As such, the setting lacks definition and, combined with the rapid flow of the outrageous story, Couscous Express presents a New York that is highly familiar to any habitual viewer of action cinema, but also a New York that no-one alive would recognize as their own.