Tag Archives: Science Fiction Graphic Novels

Engines of Desire

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Doktor Sleepless: Engines of Desire [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez.

Ellis Rodriguez Doktor Sleepless Engines of Desire

This volume contains the first eight issues of Doktor Sleepless, plus some endmatter consisting of painted cover art from individual issues, and print snapshots of the wiki at Doktorsleepless.com. Having started in this vein, I plan to follow this title in trade paperback format, though goodness knows there’s enough meat to each issue to make it worth reading in individual comics. 

Although there is no resolution to the steadily-intensifying plot in this collection, there is a climactic epiphany in the eighth issue. Doktor Sleepless invites comparison with Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, although the target is clearly today’s USA, rather than the Thatcherite UK of Moore’s dystopian fantasy. As in V, the central character is a self-caricaturing enigma who is engineering the collapse of the existing social order. He’s got a girl sidekick, and seems as much villain as hero. There’s even business with mass-distribution of masks — Ellis doubles down on that trope, in fact. 

Creepy, violent, and believable, this comic picks up and continues the outrage over injustice that Ellis exhibited in Transmetropolitan, while stripping the (always somewhat ornamental) science-fictional elements down to a bare minimum. A kindred cyberpunk comic would be Testament, but where Rushkoff uses the Bible to frame his tale of techno-sociological crisis, Ellis substitutes the Necronomicon (or something worse). 

Anyhow, it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ll be impatient for the next collection.

No Escape

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Ythaq: No Escape [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by Christophe Arleston, Adrien Floch.

Arleston Floch Ythaq No Escape

This second volume of the English translation of Arleston and Floch’s Ythaq reveals a couple more layers to the conspiratorial plot, but offers no resolution. The art remains excellent, and the characters affecting, although the story is increasingly an affair of some god(s) in the machine (planet). It doesn’t seem that the further story beyond this segment is currently available in English, but hopefully it will be in the future. As with other titles of the Marvel Soleil imprint, I find the reduction of the art from the larger European BD size to the smaller US comic book page format to be a loss, but the book is otherwise materially excellent.

Say You Want a Revolution

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Say You Want a Revolution [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Morrison with Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson, Dennis Cramer, book 1 of The Invisibles series.

Morrison The Invisibles Say You Want A Revolution

I can neither laud nor condemn Morrison’s Invisibles comic on the basis of this first trade volume. I appreciate the content, and it’s easy to see how it was ahead of the curve later occupied by The Matrix and its derivatives. Even by the end of this book, the plot was still sprawling to the point of incoherence, though. I never learned to care much for the protagonists, although the villains are plenty distasteful. The four-color art is adequate to the story, but rarely impressive in its own right. 

The physical production of this reprint book is dismal. The paper is cheap and flimsy, and the glue-bound cover fell off entirely after a single reading. And the list price is $19.95? Good grief. For that price, I’d rather borrow the subsequent volumes from the public library. But they aren’t there, nor are they likely to be, given the extreme graphic violence in sections of this book.

Scourge of the Gods

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Scourge of the Gods, Volume 1 [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by Valérie Mangin, Aleksa Gajić.

Mangin Gajic Sourge of the Gods

Set in a galactic neo-antiquity of Romans and Huns, the plot of this space opera is thick with intrigue. The painted artwork by Serbian artist Aleksa Gajic is gorgeous in its depictions of planetary vistas, and engaging in its character-level events. There is no third-person verbal narration, which suits my tastes, even if it makes the action a little harder to follow at points.

My copy of the book is a glossy, full-color hardcover, reproducing the first three issues of the original French comic in English translation from the Marvel Comics Soleil imprint. I only wish the page size were a little larger to be able to better appreciate the details of the art. The story reaches a point of crucial revelation at the end of this volume, but it certainly calls out for its sequel in order to reach a full resolution.

The Filth

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Filth [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Morrison, with Gary Erskine, Chris Weston.

Morrison Weston Erskine The Filth

I read The Filth as a complete bound collection, rather than the thirteen individual comics issues. In that format, it amounts to probably my favorite graphic novel. It includes science fiction, satire, superheroism, sex, drugs, and violence. It’s something like The Matrix reconstituted on the basis of a scatological rant from Antonin Artaud. It has a completely freestanding mythos, not dependent on any prior superhero or comics franchise, highly coherent when it’s not completely mind-blowing. Despite its evident balls-out insanity, The Filth tackles serious issues and ultimately offers a sense of profound redemption.

I’m not an unequivocal fan of Grant Morrison’s work: sometimes I find him indulgent and meandering. But when he hits his mark, he’s awesome; and I’ve never read anything where he has hit it as hard as The Filth. Weston and Erskine’s art is both surreal and gritty while strangely conventional, just the mix of H R Giger, William Blake, and Joe Kubert that the story requires.

Edited to add: Morrison is on the record as having written The Filth as a companion piece to his earlier and longer series The Invisibles, even though there is no narrative continuity between them. There is certainly a lot of conceptual and thematic overlap. They can be seen as perfectly complementary, though, if viewed through the cops-and-criminals dichotomy that each eventually collapses. The Filth works initially from the cop’s end of the spectrum, while The Invisibles does from the criminal’s.