Review by Ian Keogh
It can seem in places that the comedy drama of Reality Check is a case of having the cake and eating it. Comic creator Willard Penn is trying to sell his new project while pages from that project are featured, deliberately derivative and uninspired. It’s also extremely self-referential, showing Willard sketching women in a coffee shop, then using them in his stories. The kicker comes at the end of the first chapter when his hero Dark Hour manifests on his doorstep.
Willard’s supposedly great idea is of a sexually frustrated Batman, a condition with which the real Dark Hour is less than pleased. Glenn Brunswick is smart enough to let readers in on Willard’s love life also being far from ideal. Just as Dark Hour’s dedication to crime fighting has him missing out, the love of Willard’s life gradually faded away as he dedicated himself to comics, but is that really what he wants now?
Reality Check was an early professional gig for Victor Bogdanovic and he’s not quite the full product yet. He copes with the superhero scenes, and his page layouts are effective, but the cartoon realism of his art doesn’t always work, with some peculiarly distorted bodies and strange expressions. It’s not enough to damage the story overall, but frequently noticeable.
How Willard’s life is presented in his comics work is highlighted by Brunswick, confirming him as often the author of his own misfortune, and when a threat from Dark Hour’s world also turns up Willard’s life reaches crisis point. Just when you think you have what’s happening figured out, Brunswick twists things nicely, pulling quite the sentimental conclusion. Reality Check is flawed and a little muddy in the execution, but ultimately the reasoning is touching and rooted in humanity.