Brainwrap by Kyle Thiessen, reviewed by Robin Meyer

Most of us in the working world are familiar with the mind-numbing, madhouse grind that is minimum wage labor. We were there at one point. For some, those memories may still be as fresh as a few hours ago. Regardless of how recent our experience was, the truth is that it’s rarely a very good one. Let’s face it; those who are paid the least often have to put up with the most.

And that, despite the movie theater setting, is really what Brainwrap is about. It is an expression of frustration from the standpoint of the employee. It is uncomfortable, it is gritty, and at times it’s downright gruesome.

The flavor of the webcomic is harsh, purposefully reminiscent of an indie zine. That’s not too far off the mark, either. Kyle Thiessen originally intended the comic to be a small bit of rebellion against the industry. His ambitious plan was to mail a copy to every theater in the country. Though that plan fell through, the first few original comics eventually developed into its current online incarnation.

Brainwrap follows the first couple of days in the career of Cinemark Odeplex's newest employee Kyle. He suffers through self-important bosses, inattentive training, massive paper-cut trauma, until he eventually discovers that several of his colleagues also detest their jobs. He gets locked in the theater overnight and chewed up and out by his boss.

The comic’s major draw for me is the writing. Though gritty, there is no doubt that it is quality. There’s a quirkiness about it that drives it along, even though most of the characters are downright odious.

The odd thing is that there are only eighteen strips in the archive. That’s right. Eighteen. Despite the small archive, however, each page is extremely long so there's actually quite a bit there to read.

You might also note that Brainwrap is currently on an extended hiatus. The creator has announced plans to resume updating the comic either this summer or coming fall. Now, those of us familiar with webcomics are probably having some doubts right about now. How many webcomics have vanished into the depths of an indefinite hiatus with empty promises to return? Moreover, the original update schedule was dodgy in and of itself, with a new page every few months. So the fact is that we’ll never know if creator Kyle Thiessen will resume work in it until it actually happens.

Will you enjoy Brainwrap? It largely depends on what you are looking for. I suspect that the comic’s lure lies with those who share similar experiences. This is a comic that you can commiserate with, one in which you can recognize the dark (if exaggerated) truths of the people and culture behind both the theater industry and their parallels in other minimum wage jobs. It caters to our resentment and bad experiences. If you, perchance, come back after a hard day’s work frustrated beyond belief, then chances are you may find some brief solace in Brainwrap. If you do not, there is the chance that you may appreciate it, but it is far less likely.

Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.

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