Paul Pope’s 100%: A Lunchtime Review


The cover of the Trade Paperback for 100%

<meta>I’m starting a new section of the site–“Lunchtime Reviews”–which are exactly what they sound like.</meta>


100%, Paul Pope‘s 2002 graphic novel, was billed as “a graphic movie” and I think it succeeds splendidly in that. Wikipedia has a good summation of the characters, sci-fi, and other elements of the comic, so go read that and report back. 

100% takes place in some future (2038) version of NYC, and, as name-checked by wikipedia, there’s a good amount of Blade Runner in the depiction. There is, however, a lot separating 2038 NYC from 2019 LA. The setting of 100% is a lot less stark; it is a lot more jumbled and full of humans, refuse, and day-glo colors. (The book is in black, white and halftones, so the dayglo thing is partially an assumption. But look at the covers!) 2038 NYC has some of the lived-in future of 2019 LA, but it’s also got some 1984 1/2 London in it. The drawings are kinetic while being cinematic–this could easily serve as a story board for one of those up-and-coming direct-adaptation-of-comics directors.

There’s a whimsy here not present in the threatening dystopias like Blade Runner. Details like the popular fast food of “Tandoori Star” and orb-like “threading devices” for communications bring in various elements of futurism, but it’s all taken for granted by the characters and the story. Denying someone’s thread request is no different from sending a caller to voicemail. These futuristic elements are presented front-and-center, but it’s as if Pope is winking at the audience, dazzling us with his imaginative concepts, and saying “look at the future…same as it ever was.”

The story focuses on three main stories which intertwine to various degrees. The focus of all three stories are good ol’ boy-girl relationships: a whirlwind romance, a chance encounter, a slow burning, a reconciliation, a breakup. They’re just like, well, real life: sometimes, heartwarming, sometimes inexplicable. Perhaps the most striking element of this book is honest and slightly mundane life is in the future. People fall in and out of love, feelings get hurt, anger and fear meld with apathy in a way that almost betrays the futuristic setting. In a world where nudity has given way to lurid viewings of internal organs, would interpersonal relationships remain unchanged? Why not? 

This book dares to be a slice-of-life comic wearing a future-suit. These aren’t extraordinary people doing extraordinary things; they’re just people, y’know? Sure, it’s the future, but so what?

Further Reading:

Comic Book Resources interview w/ Paul Pope
Paul Pope’s Blog
His flickr

A brief subject matter disclaimer: This graphic novel [ed. – sounds pretentious]  contains some naked bodies, some death, and some rough language.