He’s been one of the planet’s top DJs for three decades, but that doesn’t mean Paul Oakenfold can pen a good graphic novel, even when framing it around semiautobiographical experiences that blur the lines of reality like an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Despite an interesting structure, a wealth of artistic talent at his disposal, an accompanying soundtrack, and a medium that’s perfect to tell the story, The Wonderful World of Perfecto: With Paul Oakenfold and Friends is a misfire and a cautionary tale of what could have been if the musician-producer put the same care into the comic that goes into his music.
Published by Z2 Comics at the end of 2017, Oakenfold’s four-part graphic novel explores snippets of his life shared in linear fashion. From his mullet-wielding days hanging out with friends and his parents to residencies and touring with world-class acts like U2, he conveys his love of craft and music and does everything possible to show he’s a decent guy to family, friends, and fans—even if some of those fans are creepy stalkers.
But there’s a lot to try and overlook. The dialogue is almost always distracting, loaded with exposition, grammatical errors, and, in a couple instances, reversed word balloons in panels where multiple characters speak. The characters are flat, and few of them have anything resembling an arc with personal growth or emotional beats. Even Oakenfold himself somehow manages to have a limited arc in the story, facing little direct conflict as he goes through the comic outside of a single diner confrontation in the beginning and climbing Mount Everest at the end. He never experiences direct failure. His parents are always supportive. A couple bad things happen to people around him, but the narrative never slows down enough to explore human moments or allow characters to appear three-dimensional.
Given that Oakenfold took the liberty of fabricating some fiction into the comic, why not punch up the tension and give readers a thrill or three? It would be nice to see more than spinning records, talking to Mom and Dad on the phone, and chatting about business like the entire comic’s organized around an interview with a publicist sitting behind the reader, monitoring the experience so that things never get too interesting.
Oh, but the art is a delicious feast for the eyes, particularly in the first, second, and fourth parts. Chris Hunt (part one) and Tyler Boss (part two) have created panels that come alive in ways that carry backgrounds and emotion better than any line of dialogue on the page. The panel-grid layouts are spectacular, all the line work is clean and deliberate, and the colors are vibrant. The club scenes sparkle as you feel tracks like “Ready Steady Go” pumping through the speakers.
In part three, Ian McGinty’s panels take risks, and in some instances the work pays off and is engaging. However, the scene constructed around Oakenfold’s interaction with the late Hunter S. Thompson is distracting and perhaps insulting, especially when considering Oakenfold’s a Brit working and touring through the United States throughout this section of the graphic novel. Looking at McGinty’s panels is like seeing caricatures—drawn in the spirit of his work on Adventure Time—who can’t begin to stack up against what’s on display in other parts of the graphic novel.
With all the issues and shortcomings, is the comic worth purchasing? Perhaps for hardcore fans who aren’t expecting a deep dive. The art may also be worth the price of admission. But prepare for disappointment—there’s no literature or anything revolutionary to be found. Even the accompanying soundtrack, as noble as the idea may have been, is hardly a first. In an age when comic creators readily make their playlists available online for free and fiction writers craft soundtracks to accompany their novels (like Willy Vlautin of Richmond Fontaine), Oakenfold’s needle is only moving records—not story or plot.