Writer: Ales Kot
Art: Tradd Moore and Heather Moore
Image Comics, collected as a trade paperback in January 2019
I HAVE TO HOLD MY BREATH to go back inside this psychodelicized pop art world throbbing with drama so real and grounded every scene plants itself in space though it looks like it shouldn’t: ready to fly off instead into some other definite shape or dimension, which sometimes happens after all as in the interlude when the young hacker hero and young super-cop heroine fall in love in Issue 1, and the scenes splay into wordless colored abstractions, and reality melts. I could blow up almost any one scene in this five-issue story from 2018, and live with it happily on a wall in the house, keeping up daily doses, like I can’t leave you. This is the main theme in this gripping story by writer Ales Kot, portrayed so evocatively in multi-colored frescoes by partner artists Tradd Moore and Heather Moore. I love the moments this odd couple in love choose each other, stepwise all the way through to the end, magnifying all the times we ourselves choose how and where and who we love and live with, and commit to defend. Don’t let the days go by without you.
The tableau is familiar, playing in a post-war America with a sole tyrant running the show, in this case literally, producing reality tv programs with armored police apprehending villains and serving instant justice after the public votes by precincts, up or down on the fate of the hapless malefactor, tallied and administered live. No need to stretch the metaphors far here to implicate current affairs, and classic others, like the enthusiastic mobs in Spanish towns in the 1480s, cheering their high bishops and holy officers of the Inquisition, dispossessing and burning heretics by the scores and hundreds in fiery festivals. Unfortunate to be drawn by this remembrance to despise Queen Isabella, the responsible sovereign, defacing her memory; as historian William H. Prescott impressively put it, “like a vein in some noble piece of statuary, it gives a sinister expression to her otherwise unblemished character.”
Move closer to home, frontier Arizona in 1917, a regional loyalty league organized and pressured citizens to turn in names of International Workers of the World union sympathizers and similar agitators and “pro-German” types, and in two days rounded up and detained 1200 innocent, and mostly uninvolved persons, held in remote desert stockades for two months, and only stopped because funds ran out. Play that scenario fifty times more for each state and territory times the next three to ten decades of labor conflict since. Such scenes make an inerasable, sometimes bloody aspect of American history that haunts our fantasies. Yeah, we know this plot already, really well.
Nonetheless, this splendid version of bad boy meets madder girl is impossible to resist: looks and tastes like a package of sweet tarts, yet manages to be surprisingly nuanced and nutritious, fun but filling. A sense of honor circles around the characters that takes shape in the progress of their choices and actions separately, and the trajectory of each one along the way offers a little cohabitational enlightenment, like this could be me, or me and you; at least, if it counts as enlightenment exhaling in a determined whisper under the audio pick-up, “F* my life” as cultures clash and the heroine finds she has to choose, knowing nothing will be the same from this moment on.
[Editor’s Note: In January 2021, Deadline.com reported https://deadline.com/2020/01/warner-bros-slave-play-jeremy-o-harris-new-world-comic-1202822576/ that Warner Brothers would be adopting this title for a feature film script. Jeremy O. Harris is to write the script. ]