Image’s Karmen #3 finally reveals the purpose of the series’ strange otherworldly experience, and it’s a sadder version of A Christmas Carol.
It took three issues to figure out the purpose of the strange, otherworldly experience that transpires in Image Comics‘ Karmen, but now readers know that it’s essentially the saddest version of A Christmas Carol.
Near the beginning of Karmen, college girl Catalina finds herself sitting next to her own seemingly lifeless body before she is confronted by a strange woman dressed in a skeleton suit. It’s not clear whether Catalina is dead or is about to die because the Lich-esque woman, named Karmen, is quite reticent when it comes to sharing what’s actually happening, though she is ironically quite voluble about essentially everything else under the sun.
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Karmen attempts to keep Catalina calm through kindness and by employing a wide spectrum of humor (from grotesque and childish to straight-up dorky) while showing her how to fly and even going so far as to provide some tips and tricks to make the experience more enjoyable. But the purpose for all of this ridiculousness is never revealed for quite some time. In fact, Karmen is called off on business at one point, leaving Catalina to float around aimlessly and explore to her heart’s content before she eventually returns.
But the correlation to A Christmas Carol becomes clear in Karmen #3 by Guillem March. In the 1843 novella by Charles Dickens, a cold-hearted miser named Ebenezer Scrooge finds redemption after the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future take the Bah-Humbug-spouting man through time to help him see the error of his ways and to embrace a life of love and generosity. In keeping with this reading, Image Comics’ Catalina is perpetually stuck in her “Christmas present,” where no one else can see her, except she isn’t forced to watch the people who could change her for the better, like in A Christmas Carol. The reader only sees Catalina watching them in passing.
But it turns out that, yes, Catalina is dead, she is about to be reincarnated, and Karmen wants Catalina to learn what she did wrong so she could make a better life (if these new memories come with her). But the irony is that the powers that be, whoever or whatever they are, have already determined what will happen to every soul, including Catalina. That’s why others like Karmen don’t waste their time trying to teach their “clients” a lesson before they are ferried off to the next life. This becomes abundantly clear when Catalina witnesses how another grim reaper named Karmela treats a man who just died and, most especially, when Karmela admonishes Karmen for going against protocol and wasting time.
All this accomplishes is present a rather dreary, existential outlook on life, despite the fact that reincarnation should bring hope. No matter what Catalina learns in Image‘s Karmen, she won’t come back to life and take those lessons to improve it. There’s no proof that Catalina would even remember everything Karmen showed her in her next life. And this isn’t even mentioning the fact that Catalina’s fate has already been sealed. So if she were originally destined to live in damnation for all of eternity and luckily experienced some profound awakening like Scrooge did in A Christmas Carol, it wouldn’t change anything; she would still burn for all eternity. So, although Karmen is trying to do the right thing, is she? Or is she just wasting her time?
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