Review by Karl Verhoven
How bad is Chuck Manchester’s luck? It’s so bad she actually advertises her misfortune and monetises the likes of launderettes likely to spontaneously catch fire in her presence. It’s a great idea on Lela Gwenn’s part, and better still is that she maximises the potential. Bad Luck Chuck rolls out like a smooth screen comedy drama with a likeable cast and creatively plotted situations, at times knowing, and at times laugh out loud.
Over this story Chuck has a few people out to see her fall. One is an insurance agent already on her trail convinced she’s a serial arsonist. Another is introduced when Ms. Alfolayan comes calling at Chuck’s office wanting Chuck to rescue her daughter from a cult. Fayola has been retrieved before, but always returns. The logic is that if the premises are destroyed there’ll be nothing to return to. Except it isn’t quite like that.
Matthew Dow Smith provides full detail art, the fullness of the neighbourhood on the sample page an example, and he applies that same attention to the cast, stipulating what they wear and what they have around them. The expressions sometimes don’t have a great emotional impact, but better that’s the case than he has self-aware characters mugging.
Gwenn punctuates current events with solidly plotted disasters from Chuck’s past, and also introduces subtle small notes of sympathy to pick up on. “If you’re around me too long you won’t have to worry about your mum offing you”, Chuck explains, “my gift will do it for her”. It’s not underlined, but the way the line is dropped ensures readers pick up on Chuck’s slim chance of emotional joy. It feeds into a downbeat personality, but the thought applied to someone who causes bad luck everywhere they go elevates Bad Luck Chuck from the pratfall comedy it could be into something more sophisticated. Don’t worry, though, as there are more than enough jokes, twists and surprises.
Chuck in action over the final chapter is delightful, and Bad Luck Chuck isn’t nearly as admired as it ought to be.