Updated: Apr 12
As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life.
100% is a comic book series written and drawn by Paul Pope that was released in 2002-2003. The story revolves around six characters living their lives in New York City in the winter of 2038. Naturally, being the future, the story has underlying science fiction/cyberpunk themes—like gastro clubs that use MRI-Tek to show audiences ... you guessed it (or more likely, probably didn't guess it), the internal organs of strippers, because, after all, that is how far down we've gone in the future, how perverted we've become. Normal pornography evidently became less and less stimulating, so in our quest for endorphins, for release, we went well beyond the the extremes. Other science fiction themes found throughout include flying police cars, four-dee rooms, and even money with the picture of Che Guevara on the front.
John, a busboy at the gastro club, and former medieval literature student, ended up where he was at … lugging clean dishes up the stairs from the basement of the club, and dirty ones back down—endlessly, day in and day out, like a modern-day Sisyphus after having been hit hard by a mid-life crisis. After he woke up one day and realized everything was wrong, everything was rotten—the milk was sour, the bread was moldy, something about life just wasn't right, and so he became a busboy. So he thinks to himself:Why life? Why this life? Why this soap? Why these hands...? Deep down, you fear nothing. But you still hope something. Either way, you're not really sure. That's my crisis. I don't want to die. But if I gotta die, first I'm gonna live.
Later, John would meet Daisy (aka Jennifer, aka Dollar Bill), a new dancer for the gastro pub. The two bump into each other, and eventually hook up. But not before some awkward flirting and not before John is forced into a bit of old-fashioned courting—dinner for two. At dinner, Daisy asks John to tell him a story, and so he does. John tells Daisy a variation of the romantic medieval fairytale of Tristan and Iseult. In return, Daisy tells John another variation—a variation of the same fable—a variation which is more or less a contemporary horror story.
So, will John and Daisy stay together? Will John find some purpose in loving someone else, in companionship, and finally, live life 100%? Daisy is a bit unstable, mentally, that is. Instead of accepting what was right in front of her, having perhaps personally seen what love can do to two people (Tristan and Iseult horror version), she starts to lose it—she starts to lose her mind. Should she runaway as she has alwasy done, should she settle down, get a stable job, become normal? Reflecting on this, she thinks to herself while dancing: Biology. It's all so simple. Eat, sleep, have sex, die ... nothing to it. Notice, no love. Her heart is big, no, it is small, no, it is extraordinarily large, and everyone has seen it (literally), but no one knows her, no one genuinely sees hers. Too bad for John. Normalcy isn't in the cards for Daisy.
Another character named Eloy, aka Kettlehead, has a vision to tune one hundred tea kettles to one single musical note, this way when they go off, they will all be in perfect harmony, they will create a single-key symphony. To get funding for his idea, he approaches a group for financing, but they had the opposite thought: one hundred tea kettles, all set to different keys to orchestrate a perfect cacophony. Eloy could choose to sellout, take the money, produce the teapot cacophony and double back on his vision later in life. Because, isn't this what we all do anyway? Sellout in the end? Who first paid you to give up on your dreams, and how much did they pay you? Ultimately, he decides against selling out and passes on the funding. But he doesn't do so without thinking to himself, What if you did something great and nobody noticed? Or what if what you did was just a pile of shit and you knew it was, too... and although you tried to believe them, deep down, you knew it wasn't true. What about those ones? All there is, is work and the instinct to work. Eloy thoughts also hone in on the loneliness an artist feels when creating original works of art. Your whole heart and soul go into the work, but like Vincent van Gogh, will anyone notice? Is what you're doing crazy? Eloy does find some reprieve in a little fornication with a character named Kim.
The other characters Strel and Haitous, get back together in the end. Rekindle their lost love. A story we won't share here, you'll just have to read the book for yourself. But love it is for them.
In conclusion, 100% is a story about life, love, and loneliness in the big city, in the future. If at any time your significant other starts to get too philosophical, starts to question things too much, just do what Daisy does. Have sex. That will cure your existential woes. At least for a bit. If that fails, do something bold, close your eyes and throw a dart at a large map, and wherever that dart lands, go—go now. And if against all the odds it lands on your hometown...
100% is a great read, make sure to check it out on Amazon. Though it may not in the end tackle the question of meaning, there is still great meaning found in this work of art. The comic series reminded me of the recent quote from Drew Barrymore. Readers should also check out this interview with Paul Pope about 100%.