Writer(s): Max Bemis
Artist(s): Ransom Getty
US Publisher: Boom Studios
A country is about to become an evil empire, so the authors want to show you how it happened (I think. I am in issue 3 and still not too clear on this one…)
Great. Before writing this review, I checked around other reviewers and it seems that there is a great acceptance and love for this book. Seems this book is as loved by reviewers as much as I ended up disliking it as a failed experiment in graphic storytelling.
The art is really great here, make no mistake about it, my friends and faithful readers.
Its the story that is a cliched ridden mess.
And that pisses me off to no end.
Because when you try to dwell into social topics, addressing a political situation in a country, you have to be prepared to paint a picture full of greys, and manage to keep it interesting, but it seems to me that Max Bemis only knows black and white here.
I ended up disliking this book for one main reason: When someone promises you a wedding cake, you expect the best wedding cake you have ever eaten, because it is for an amazing occasion.
You promise us a political/social thriller… I expect something that will address our problems and enlighten us and thrill us. Instead, we get…singers and half-brained politicians and inexpressive dialogue.
So… I am expecting this….you know? Political thriller, artists involvement, social upheaval, big boy issues!!!
And I end up getting this.
And that is my main point of contention for being able to recommend this book. It fills me with disappointment. Not unreasonable disappointments, like my father wanting me to go to Harvard and be a lawyer while working full time to pay for my own tuition, graduate with honors and debt free…No, not like that. Disappointed because my expectations were not that high to begin with.
Comics are a Graphical Narrative medium. You have to be able to pace them like professional story-boarders do in movies, to make sure you can keep a decent and engaging pace. But this series doesn’t keep a decent pace, and it is all over the spectrum drawing half-pictures out of complex issues, and in general drawing a caricature of the world with a limited palette of brushes.
If the writer reads this and takes it like a personal attack, let me dispel it now: IT IS NOT. I don’t know Max Bemis from jack, except that he wrote Polaris, another series that failed to keep me engaged, and he is in some music band.
So I am going to give some pointers on how to write a comic book, and outline the do’s and don’ts, and hope that it serves also as a good reference for other writers.
Oh, I know every artists has a fragile ego (except me, who I seem to crave and thrive in the floods of criticisms) so future comic book writers, take this advice as a basis from where to jump to your own heights.
POINT 1)Where are yo going with this? I read your first issue. You may expect me to read your mind from the graphic cues you drop, like a German war helmet with some insignia on it, or the panels where some guys act like the original brown shirts of the growing nazi regime and were beating up people, or the last page where some politician sports a close-up of an evil grin….. Obviously you don’t seem to know that people INTERPRET things differently, depending on their context. So, I ended up the first issue and I still don’t know where you want to go with this. That’s a turn off. Even more when you add to this mix POINT 3 below. So one reader will interpret that you are making an apology for social cleansing, while others will think you are condemning it. Your first issue closes and we still don’t know where you are going with this and the problem is… I am paying you to tell me, and you are not.
POINT 2) A floppy is not a graphic novel in installments. Contrary to popular belief and trends, floppies should not function as installments of your 400 page graphic novel. Yes, the hero suffers desolation. In your 400 page amazing graphic novel, 20 pages will be covered showing “The winter of his discontent” in dialog-less pages where he barely moves. But if you sell me that as floppy, I am going to want to stick it up your ass, and twist it, till you give me my money back. This is known in scientific circles as the “Floppy Conundrum” (Floppy meaning (for those readers in this blog who don’t know it) the monthly comics that have soft covers and about 20 pages that appear in our comic books shops and costs between $2 and $4.00. When you complete a story line, they get sold as a collected work in a graphic novel, all binded together and for a price between $20 and $40.00). Well, some authors think they can break a long arch into pieces and sell you the story in floppies to pay for their expenses, and that should include also the part that, as a floppy, will suck!
The pacing is different!!!! DON’T DO IT. Write for floppies or write for Graphic Novels but don’t mix them if they don’t mix.
POINT3) Cliched dialogues: In this book we are using as an example, the characters carry the emotional range of a hormone loaded teen (they are not, I think, for the most part)…and they express themselves as a poorly educated hormone loaded teen. It bores the reader to tears. Seriously. Well, maybe adolescents with little exposure to literary works relate, but the rest of us grown-ups… find it hard to remain engaged, much like having an hour long conversation with a vacuous mall-rat who peppers every phrase with “dude” and “like” expressions.
Future Comic Book Writer: There is this very famous test in comics that you should learn and practice: Someone should be able to read your characters to you, without telling you who is speaking, and you should be able to tell they are DIFFERENT characters. Your book, Mr Bemis, fails the test to a degree I haven’t seen in a long time.
Point 4) Don’t mix medias unless you know the results will be amazing: Turns out, Mr. Bemis is also in a music band. He decides to make one of the main characters a pop-type artist. One of those who relish in popularity but fight hard against being labeled POP. In too many pages of the comic, we find the singer doing a show, or referring to the music. Mr. Bemis, you forgot to include a CD with the comic (tongue in cheek sarcasm)! So, all we are left is with some figure posing dramatically through a stage, and some disconnect words that resemble a song lyric. Let me get this straight, Mr Bemis: You wanted your readership to consist in people who are into pop music? And you don’t give us any music? Just the appearance of music in a graphic medium?
Thank goodnes you got a pretty good artist to give some force to the otherwise lame and fish-out-of-water references you want to ascribe world-changing importance. Suuuuuure… a diva on a stage, shaking her ass and flaunting her high-school level reading education is going to CHANGE THE WORLD!!! I’ve lost track of how many revolutions, wars and social changes have taken place because of music… Didn’t Alexander the Great went into India to get some of those sweet Bollywood soundtracks? Didn’t the French revolution took place because they wanted “Egalite, Fraternite and Sweet sweet tunes for all”?
Point 5) Oversimplification/overcomplication of the wrong topics: So, you want to talk politics as a force of change, and a force that affects every aspect of our lives, and then you make two simplistic caricatures of the two parties… one is evil, the other is simplistic and naively good. But our singer/protagonist has penache, and poses and is sassy and questions both, and keeps herself out, even though the solution has always been there, the solution to everything in life… MTV’s Rock the Vote!!!!
Seriously, your narrative of the events is so far removed from the complexities of reality that it fails over and over again to retain my interest. Just when I want to start liking something about what you are writing, instead of smart writing, I find more caricatures passing as re-writing history as you understand it (and you make me believe you barely understand anything about it).
At this point, I was reading the comic for the artistic value.
Turns out that Ransom Getty has a great skill at page composition. He story-boards the narrative the best he can resolve it (which is not an easy feat with a narrative like this that tries to be so many things and manages to go nowhere) and makes some bold choices with the angles and the takes.
My main of complaint towards his art is how little his human figures act. The character of the “good politician” spends most of the time with his hand rubbing his head…
Either he got dropped one time too many on his soft spot or we are abusing an expression-device found often in manga
I don’t dare to blame the artist too much for these caricatures of the characters. I have the impression they were written like this. Check out how bad is the “bad guy”.
OMG! I confess to killing my wife, and I open my arms and grin… can I get more evil than this?
Now, we are going to make sure we know he is really evil… seriously…
OH NO!!! He gave us the middle finger!!! OH NO! We are doomed!!!!
Let me show you what real evil looks like:
Real Life Vice President of the US, Dick Cheney, who is also the CEO of a company called Halliburton, who happens to be the main contractor of field operations during the war in Irak, war that took place while he was in office. See a middle finger here? See an evil contracted frown? No? Mhhhh wonder why?
Introducing Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who presided over the congress that took more time off and attended less sessions than it was historically possible, while presenting no bills to solve unemployment, and actively blocking bills to extend medical assistance to the veterans who returned injured from war (that it was demonstrated later that it had no valid reason for being declared), and also made a big deal about blocking the only motion for universal health care in the US, while not providing any viable alternative.
Do not think I am republican biased. There are democratic monsters too, but the Republicans are the ones who have more outstanding idiots and evil-doers among their ranks right now. I am sure next round it will be the democrats turn. This raping is cyclical. One term the dems do us in the butt while the reps take the front, the other term they switch sides. And 1% of them (politicians) are busy actually fixing problems.
We may want to bring forth the justices of the Supreme Court, the ones who dare to pass a monstrosity such as Citizens United, by which, corporations are people… people you can’t arrest, or send to death row, but they are people… weird but all part of the twisted American landscape.
My dear Max Bemis, MTV and rock the vote is just cannon fodder, making people buy into a system that is broken, instead and giving them the tools to step aside to fix it.
Question: What is the point of public vote, if the presidential elections get determined by an Electoral College?
Question: How do the electorate express their discontent with the candidates presented to them?
Question: How to the electorate bring issues to the House for them to vote to, in a quick and efficient way?
Question: Why are religious institutions exempted from taxes?
Question: Why are elected officials allowed to participate in international secret meetings with public funds, such as the Bilderberg reunions?
Question: What efforts are being done to audit the Federal Reserve?
Question: How come no one has been jailed after the 2007 financial fiasco?
These are some questions that I expected you to answer, and you never even bothered to ask. Instead you preferred to write fan-fiction about how America got to the dystopia portrayed in “The Hunger Games”
So, in my critic’s review Evil Empire gets
4 out of 10 stars
With most of the saving graces going to the art. Good job, Ransom Getty!!