Graphic Novel Review: Terms and Conditions by Robert Sikoryak

Sikoryak‘s adaptation of Apple‘s lengthy user agreement is less a graphic novel than an art experiment based around the one-note joke “lol now you HAVE to read the iTunes terms and conditions lol”. Ironically, most people won’t read the text and just flip through the book in search of the homage to their favourite comics.

The justification for Robert Sikoryak‘s book seems to be: “hey look i can draw in all the different ways other people can draw wow wow look even some of the new hip comics all the young people like nowadays wow!”.

Yeah, he’s good at it. The book has accurate depictions of the icons of old like Garfield, Tintin, and various superhero comics alongside more contemporary references such as Adventure Time, Scott Pilgrim, and Hyperbole and a Half (kinda weird to use that one…) Sikoryak did his research and is clearly gifted at mimicry. He hasn’t really put it to good use though.

It’s not just that there is no narrative- there is no cohesive plan at all. Sikoryak just faithfully adapts one page from each source, then pastes in a chunk of the license agreement text. The pages are not related to one another, and neither are the text and pictures. When the words and actions do match up it’s entirely by chance.

This is no meditation on post-modernism, legal contracts, or technology. Sikoryak doesn’t uncover some malicious corporate secret buried in the agreement. It’s literally just the one joke stretched out to novel length.

Each main character is transformed into some variation on Steve Jobs, who recites the boring contract to other characters from that work. There’s a few clever touches; some characters are morphed into various Apple products and there’s some nods to the company’s iconography hidden throughout the book. Did this really merit printing though? It’s not even relevant, considering the joke about the tedious nature of the contract has been mined by late night talk show hosts for well over a decade. iTunes itself is now a relic.

So it’s hard to even call it opportunistic. It’s a strangely dated piece of work that seems to rely entirely on people’s attachment to the borrowed properties. Sort of like an artisanal take on the “shared universe” phenomenon, except this universe isn’t even shared. There’s no crossovers between the pages. It’s just a collection of different styles bound together for the sake of spectacle. Not only is it hackneyed…The Simpsons already did it. It doesn’t even feel organic because it’s not necessary- couldn’t Sikoryak have used original characters to say the dialogue? What does iTunes, ostensibly a music service, have to do with comics?

Ultimately, it’s just a curio that elicits a few nostalgic smiles, then forgotten. In some ways it’s the definitive graphic novel for the social media era, relying entirely on the public’s brand loyalty to move units.

 

Final Grade: C

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