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This isn’t an installment of my semi-regular sci-fi comics series, although they’re both science fictional enough for my blood. But two books came out last week that I feel like folks ought to take a look at, and I have the feeling both of them have the potential to be overlooked.
KARNAK #1, by Warren Ellis, Gerardo Zaffino, and Dan Brown
Karnak is billed as an ongoing, although if I know Warren Ellis he’ll likely only be helming the book for the first six to twelve issues. I intend to mentally treat it as a miniseries until I know more about his plans. I know next to nothing about the Inhumans, and I didn’t know Karnak was even a character until this book was announced, so I’m coming at this from a position of almost total ignorance. That said, the first issue intrigues.
The book begins with a call from something called the Infernal Device. One of Karnak’s monks– he has monks– comes to get him. The Infernal Device is in here:
…and it turns out to be a phone. Right away, you realize Warren Ellis is writing the book, which should probably tell you right away whether you’re reading this or not. Karnak’s deal is that he can instantly see the flaw in anything: philosophies, objects, systems, people… everything. It makes his abilities both hard to define and extremely versatile. He splits a bullet in half with his bare hand at one point. Also, this happens:
The plot itself is pretty thin: Karnak is hired, through S.H.I.E.L.D., to find a young man who has been exposed to the Terrigen mists and captured by an offshoot of AIM called IDIC. The genius of this book is the atmosphere; you already have an idea of the color palette and the general tone, and the book is remarkably sparse with words– I’d say half the book has less than one dialogue bubble per page, and there are at least half a dozen with no dialogue or text at all. It’s well worth checking out, if you’d let it slip by.
CLEAN ROOM #1, by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt
This one’s definitely an ongoing, and since it’s a Vertigo title not called Hellblazer one assumes it will be written by Gail Simone until it gets cancelled or she decides to end it. The book starts off in Germany, probably but not definitely in the past, where a red-headed little girl (who is never named) is run over by a truck driver who doesn’t seem entirely in control of himself while he’s doing it. When she wakes up, she asks her mother where her daddy is, and when Mom points out that Daddy’s in the room with them, she asks why Daddy’s face is made of snakes.
So we start off lighthearted and cozy, is what I’m saying.
I’ll be honest: KARNAK is pretty straightforward, if a story told in an interesting way. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on in CLEAN ROOM, but I know I like it. The rest of the book is a journalist trying to track down Astrid Mueller, author of a book with no punctuation that supposedly either reveals the secrets of the universe to you or drives you insane. And if you’re catching echoes of THE KING IN YELLOW… well, I doubt that’s a mistake.
Her name is Chloe Pierce, and ever since her boyfriend blew his head off soon after reading the book, she’s been searching for answers. She survives a suicide attempt at the beginning of her part of the story, and by the end of it she’s confronting Astrid Mueller, who is red-headed and has a German last name. Hmmm…
Like I said, I have no idea where it’s going, really, but the book’s overall vibe is creepy as hell and Gail Simone is always great. So check it out.
Good day, everyone! It’s been quite awhile since you’ve heard from me, but I felt it was high time my Batman column here at Sourcerer saw another entry. Today, I want us to talk about Jerome Valeska (played by Cameron Monaghan) from the Gotham television series.
I know; the first season of Gotham was certainly a mixed bag. Personally, I enjoyed it despite recognizing its many weaknesses. I’m happy to see that the second season has started off rather strongly and is set to do greater justice to its source material while still forging ahead with its own story. I would say Gotham‘s greatest strength so far has been in its introduction of the character of Jerome Valeska, the show’s proto-Joker. Please note that from here on out, there will be spoilers for the show.
When Jerome and his bizarre circus family were first introduced last season, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Surely, the episode was visually stimulating and a murder mystery on a police procedural certainly sells, but it still seemed like there was something yet to be introduced. I was not disappointed; this episode ended on a surprise note that made my skin crawl, with Jerome transforming in an instant from a simpering child victim to a laughing psychopath that had any Batman fan worth his or her collection instantly on edge.
And the character has only grown more this season into the role set for him in that simple scene. Jerome’s appearance and demeanor are of a young man constantly on the verge of some sort of outburst, and he tends toward the morbidly dramatic. Further, Jerome cares little for even his own life, but cares a great deal about taking charge in a situation in order to insure that he gets his point across, whatever it may be.
The character’s showmanship coupled with Monaghan’s stage presence are a wonderful combination that plays out beautifully. Jerome isn’t a man who even pretends at a plan; rather, he is a true agent of chaos pursuing the greatest possible shock value with the highest possible body count.
On a final (and much appreciated) note, the writers of Gotham demonstrate that they are fully aware of the Joker’s irreplaceable, mythic role in the Batman mythos. This is worked in wonderfully with Jerome’s father (a blind fortune-teller played by Mark Margolis) reciting a prophecy concerning Jerome’s personal legacy of horror.
I find it a shame that Jerome had to be killed off after only four episodes. He was one of the greatest things about Gotham thus far, and that show has many, many great performances going for it, from Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth, to Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin, and of course Erin Richards as the broken Barbara Kean. Perhaps the greatest tragedy, and appropriately enough, the greatest treat, is that Cameron Monaghan gave us the greatest live action Joker yet, and he wasn’t even playing the Joker. I raise a glass to such a performance.
That’s it for this installment, everyone. Thanks for reading and welcoming me back. I plan on doing several more guest posts as the year wraps up, most especially once Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello’s Dark Knight III: The Master Race hits shelves. As for reading recommendations, I suggest that, Batman: Europa, and Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once all three see publication. Each should offer up a different take on the character from what is currently enjoying mainstream publication.
Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. She grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. When things seemed to get to rough she got sent away to Europe, but eventually came back home. It was also one of the top challenged books in America in 2014.
Using a graphic novel to tell the story made it something that could cross boundaries in many ways. It is difficult to talk about a situation from another culture if you have not grown up in that situation. Visuals help to translate those cultural differences into something that can be interpreted by others. The story itself is so incredible and to see those items visually it really brings power to the story being told.
A graphic novel granted Marjane Satrapi the ability to put a face on the situation in Iran, where otherwise it could just be seen as something that is happening far away that doesn’t matter.
The important thing to remember when reading Persepolis is that it is an autobiography. Someone could try and separate the story being told with the reality of the situation – but this was the real situation. One of the things that we often forget about the facts of history is that they are experienced by real people. Those people experience and view those events through the lens of their personal experience.
In Persepolis Satrapi really shows you her experience and her view on her life. She takes you from living in Iran and dealing with her world being turned upside down. Then to being the fish out of water trying to live in Europe where suddenly the culture and customs are completely different. Finally she ends up back in Iran because she wants to go – only to discover that home is a little harder to find then she thought. It gives you a unique look into a story that most people have no connection to.
The graphic novel does a great job of giving visuals to circumstances that other cultures could not relate to. A great example of this is the very beginning of Part 1 where Satrapi is explaining about the veil. I think that other cultures have a view of what the veil is and what it means, but it is great to hear from someone who grew up in that culture. The other piece is that there is no one type of veil – there are multiple. Part of what the different types of veils tell you is about the person’s own beliefs.
It is amazing how much can be brought out of what seems like a simple piece of fabric, but there is so much more to it than you might expect. At the same time to be able visually see how the veil is represented in Iranian culture really helps to understand everyday life for Satrapi.
Marjane Satrapi’s story is not easy to hear. Persepolis gives you a look into a harrowing series of events. She does not shy away from talking about difficult and personal experiences in a very open and honest way. It is not about the clinical numbers that we might hear about in a history book. It is about the real people in her life who she knows and cares about.
Sometimes history can seem like just a series of numbers and the situations can be tragic, but we often distance ourselves from the real tragedy. Persepolis brings the lives of those who lived through this particular situation into focus. It is obviously only one story, but it gives a glimpse into a different life and a different world. It puts a face on the history of a nation that many of us would not know otherwise.
by Philip N. Cohen
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