Have you been in the mood for some teen romance but want just a bit more body horror than usual? Or is your steady diet of body horror lacking that awkward teen drama? Well, thankfully Dark Horse has got ya covered with this reprint of Michel Fiffe's 2005-2008 series Panorama, and it's nice to have more easy access to Fiffe's older work as his Copra series has been getting more attention.
Panorama follows Augustus and his girlfriend Kim as they initially deal with Augustus' unwanted ability to....melt? It's never really defined, but essentially as his anxiety and stress levels increase his body reshapes itself into horrible configurations, and can actually alter the mental reality of people that come into contact with him. Fiffe is obviously a fan of the old Ditko character Shade The Changing Man as Augustus's wardrobe choice is a nice design nod. The concept of someone whose physical body is in a constant Cronenberg-like flux has a lot of appeal and works as a nice analogy to the changes teens go through, so taking that and cramming an offbeat romance into it is a brilliant move.
The first chunk of the book follows Augustus as he's run away from home and stumbles across people who would take advantage of him, then pivots a bit as his gf Kim shows up. After they have (unprotected) sex, Kim accidentally absorbs Augustus and she then tries to figure out how to live life with him now (seemingly) irreversibly linked to her.
Fiffe's style balances between quirky and horrific, the horror of puddy like flesh and splitting viscera sharing the space with unique design work, innovative layouts, and charming (and faulty) characters. The physical horror also gets an interesting infusion of existential horror as Kim and Augustus not only have to deal with the usual but amplified teen anxieties, but also of the threat of losing yourself and sense of identity in a relationship (literally, in Augustus' case).
Fiffe's artwork has been evolving over the years, but one of the reasons I really enjoyed it in this collection was due to the heavy Stephen Gammell (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) vibes I was getting throughout the story. The unique balance of chiaroscuro and the textures of his linework gives every body warping scene the tone of internal and eternal nightmare screaming.
If you've never checked out Fiffe's work this is a solid and self-contained intro, and just a wholly unique bit of mid-2000's indy comics. The package is a good dense read with plenty of unique grossness to keep your eyes lingering on the pages, so the $19.99 price tag for 128 pages is a good deal. Then do yourself a favor and check out Copra, which is easily the best Suicide Squad story you'll ever read and so much more.