Straight Shooter

I have to admit I’m getting pretty burned out on protest comics these days. Like most members of generations X-9/11 I’m afraid I’m too ADD and self-conscious to successfully protest a war, or much of anything else. Sure I don’t want the killing to continue and I sure as hell don’t want to be drafted, but I also don’t want to dwell on it or sound too whiny. I would gladly be Brian K. Vaughn’s man-wife, but I’ve left off reading his Pride of Baghdad series because I’m afraid the story of zoo animals surviving in ravaged Iraq with all its anti-war (not to mention environmental) implications, would tip me to the hippie oversaturation point and I’d black out, only to find myself six weeks later as a regional campaign manager for Pat Buchanan or something.

So you can imagine why I’d be skeptical of this comic, which for the first story arc practically oozes the stench of patchouli. The tale begins in the near future, where we are (of course) still fighting in the Middle East, and actually doing worse than ever. The government has in fact reinstated the draft, but here’s the kicker, 9/11 conspiracy weirdos: Draftable Americans were injected with tracking chips as children (supposedly for their own safety), which not only make them easy to find but contain the heretofore  unused power to harm their hosts.

Not exactly subtle, but that’s not all in the preachiness department: Scenes of this not-so-nuanced dystopia are intercut with the Old Testament story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. So the first few issues take some coaxing to get through, but here’s your carrot: This series is turning out to be as awesome as it sounds terrible.

Turns out Rushkoff is pretty ADD himself. He takes time to whine about the war, sure, but somewhere around the robotic bug attack, the storyline puts the brakes on the hippie soapbox derby and takes a hard turn toward Naked Lunch land, and the God angle becomes a lot more important than the war whining. What comes across initially as heavy-handedness turns out to be the sheer hugeness of Rushkoff’s balls. He takes the kind of chances  that have always marked Vertigo’s best books, and Testament is the rare sort of comic that has the potential to change the way you think about life and religion: a sort of illustrated version of Hero With a Thousand Faces.

Read the first issue of Testament (and The Losers and Sandman and Preacher) for freaking free at:

OK, watch me now guys. If I’m not careful here, this review’s going to turn into a long list of comic books After the Cape has been heavily influenced by; it’s just that sort of book. Its purely monotone color scheme dares you to unfavorably compare Marco Rudy to Frank Miller. Protagonist Ethan Falls’s struggle with alcoholism has been similarly treated ad nauseum in every Iron Man I’ve ever read. Alan Moore perfected and then grew tired of the overlapping dialogue transitions Wong so excitedly overuses sometime around 1988.

But who cares? This doesn’t tell you much about the quality of the book, and there is definitely some quality here if you look past all this. The struggle Falls faces despite his so-far-poorly-defined gravity-control powers is not much less compelling because it’s been done. The destructive force addiction can have on his duties as a superhero and, more importantly, as a father and husband, seems somehow fresh, or at least not too terribly stale. Sure post-Watchmen superheroes have been over-emoted to Grey’s Anatomy proportions, but Wong has managed to squeeze a little more poignancy out of the fallible-superman turnip. And where else will you see two people in tights attempt a straight-faced intervention? 


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