You Can't Just Kiss Anyone You Want cover detail

“You Can’t Just Kiss Anyone You Want”

Writer: Marzena Sowa
Artist: Sandrine Revel
Lettering: Sylvain Dumas
Translator: Edward Gavin
Published by: Dupuis/Europe Comics
Number of Pages: 98
Original Publication: August 2012


From The Slap to The Kiss

The Slap show cast photo from NBC

NBC had a series a couple years ago called “The Slap.” The premise was simple: What happens to a family and group of friends after an adult slaps a misbehaving child? What’s the domino effect of bad feelings, raw emotions, and unexpected angst? Things spiral out of control and drama ensues.

It didn’t last long, and lots of people like to make fun of it using the same simplifications that the series used to market itself in the first place.

“It’s an entire series about a slap?!?”

Not everyone believes in constraints breeding creativity… It’s a crazy world, but that’s what happens sometimes.

You Can't Just Kiss Anyone You Want cover“You Can’t Just Kiss Anyone You Want” has a similar inciting incident.  It starts in a movie theater when a boy tries to kiss a girl. She denies him and shrieks out loud.

That sounds innocent enough, but context is everything. This movie theater is showing Soviet propaganda movies to kids during their school day. And that shriek leads the teacher to stop the movie, and gets the boy in trouble.

In the days of the Soviet Empire, you did not want to be making trouble or standing out anywhere.

Suddenly, this one little moment balloons into a major domestic issue with impacts that change the lives of multiple families and, even, the teacher.


The Domino Effect

As with “The Death of Stalin,” this book is a good reminder of the system in place under the communist regime of the Soviet Union. While that book viewed it mostly from the highest levels, this one is more of a man on the street view. We hear the people in school, in their houses, on the streets, talking about what they fear from their leadership. They talk about keeping quiet so any “subversive” thought isn’t discovered and punished. They hide parts of their lives behind closed doors for fear the police will throw them in jail for things that would not be offenses in any free country. This includes possession of foreign comic books and poetry.

The entire cast of this book lives under one credo: Stay off someone else’s list. Keep your head down, be grateful for what you’ve got, don’t rock the boat, and keep quiet in public. You never know who’s listening.

The Near Miss Kiss

So when this girl screams out during a movie meant to propagandize kids, the boy is in trouble. When his teacher stops the movie, she’s in trouble. Everyone must stay in line for the good of the common cause. Everyone needs to think alike, in line with what the Fearless Leaders says. Anyone who steps out of that bubble — by making a show during a government-favored propaganda film — is likely to feel retributions from high above. And who would say no to those people? Who could afford to? Once they’re onto you, it’s too late. If they want you, there’s no hiding or running away.

You can't run away from the communist leaders of the USSR

It’s much worse when you are an actual subversive thinker and writer.  Marzena Sowa’s script includes a major subplot dealing with the boy’s father, who’s a bit of a poet and writer. He is wary of being punished by the government for his thoughts.  And we all know how dangerous poets could be in those times… He seems to be the smartest one of them all, though, in how he hides his work from the government.  But can even he survive this newfound scrutiny?


Revel’s Art

It has a very independent comic feel to it.  It feels like the kind of book you’d pick up at SPX, or that would be published by Fantagraphics or some other smaller press publisher.  It relies on the thick ink outlines, with very simplistic forms and very few straight lines. Backgrounds are mostly sketched in, bringing just enough detail in to give the reader an idea of where they are.  There are some backgrounds that shift into overdrive with textures and tons of detail, but for the most part it’s just people in rooms having chats.

Just Can't Kiss - boy is in trouble in the principal's office.

The story is told with three tiers and mostly six panel layout. (It goes up to 9 panels, occasionally.) They all have rounded corners, and a lot of them don’t have the black borders.

The word balloons are shaped to match with mostly squiggly lines functioning as tails. I like that the font isn’t trying to approximate anyone’s hand lettering.  It’s a direct descendant of old school hand lettering, with the thin and thick lines you might have had from an ink pen back in the day.

I like the coloring, which incorporates some textures from what looks like charcoals or ink washes. There are also more granular patterns that look like small slashes or basic static.

I can’t complain about the art. It’s not my usual style, but the storytelling is good, the art is consistent, and the facial expressions are key.


It’s a little slow. It’s depressing.  But there is a bit of hope at the end there to balance it all out.  It’s definitely not an action/adventure book.  It’s a bit staid because the world it exists in was oppressive and tried its hardest to keep people boxed in, both physically and mentally.

If you’re a student of history or curious more about what the Soviet Union was capable of in the bad old days, this book might hold some interest for you. It’s definitely much more on the “literary” side of things than my usual pop entertainment, I know.  It’s good to mix things up, though.

If you can read French, get the original edition of this book, which includes a Making Of section in the back of the book. You’ll get sketches, layouts, and a lot of text that looks like it explores the author’s process of research.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #82.)


Buy It Now

Izneo’s price is $4 more than comiXology’s as of this writing.

Interestingly, the Amazon price is less than half the comiXology price. It looks like you can purchase the book on Amazon and then transfer it to comiXology, too.

Buy this book on Amazon Buy this book on Izneo Buy this book on Comixology Preview


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