Tragic Relief 12

Thieves! Cross-Dressing!
You really need more?
Written by Betsy Swardlick
Illustrated by Colleen Frakes
Retrofit Comics

He's a rogue who dresses as a woman to practice thievery sometime in the Colonial age.  She's the woman that loves him, with a set of sticky fingers all her own.  Together, they share adventure (and clothes) in this edition of Tragic Relief, Colleen Frakes' ongoing series of mini-comics.

I first became aware of Ms. Frakes' work a few months ago, and was excited that she was contributing an issue to the Retrofit Comics project, where 17 indie comic issues from everyone from James Kochalka to Noah Van Sciver participating.  The first issue was by Kochalka, and I reviewed it here.  I think the concept is a solid one, and I was happy to be a Kickstarter contributor for the project.

This issue was a lot of fun to read.  Broken down into several story sections, we follow the tale of a man who prefers to dress as a woman, and uses the disguise to commit crimes.  His wife is completely supportive, which is refreshing to see, even if this an indie comic.  When his thievery threatens to end everything, we find that there's more to the story than meets the eye.

Because this is a funny story, things end well for our modern couple, as they go off to keep living life the way they want to, free from the mores of the society in which they live.  We get a few codas that finish up the tales of several of the side characters, which I thought was a nice touch.  I really liked just how comical the whole story was, with even the dangerous parts turned into more of a romp than anything else.  This comic is, at heart, a caper, and it plays out perfectly, from patsies who keep getting picked on to a rotund villain who gets his in the end.

Frakes' art style works well with the material written by Swardlick.  Her expressive faces really sell the comedy, and she allows just enough exaggeration to make the farce work.  The costuming fits the time period well, and the only thing that might have been nice is a bit more of a solid background for these zany characters to run around in.  Other than that extremely minor complaint, I thought this comic was just about perfect.  It does exactly what it sets out to do, and does it in style.  I'm seriously impressed with this comic, and I think anyone who has no issue with the content matter will, too.  This is definitely one of the best minis I read in 2011.

You can pick up Tragic Relief 12 at the Retrofit Comics store.  I strongly recommend you pick up a subscription while you are there!  You can find a preview of this comic here.