The Path to Redemption
by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
I just read an article from the Washington Post about how many objects we have sent to orbit the Earth. If you happen to find your personal abode under a large boulder, you may not have heard that there was a pretty significant collision between an American and a Russian satellite. The world has become so dependent on satellite technology from of course defense purposes to entertainment and personal communication. The problem is, our skies are now getting crowded. Also, that stuff has to travel at such high speeds just to stay at escape velocity and avoid falling back into the atmosphere. Reports indicate that the two satellites collided at about 22,000 miles per hour. That's not a typo - you can tell because I put in the comma before the three zeros. So in addition to losing whatever functions those satellites had, we now have about 600 pieces of debris from the collision traveling at 20+ times the speed of sound!
That brings to mind the opening image from Wall-E where you can barely see the Earth from orbital heights through all of the pollution that we have up there... or will have up there in about 100 years. Is that where we're headed? Do we have pollute so much and have so much waste that even our skies will be overtrashed?
I like to believe that I'm not that cynical. I was a little encouraged by that presentation that Billy Gates gave last week at TED. He mentioned how we have managed to significantly reduce the number of childhood deaths in the last 30 or so years. That's pretty significant, as it wasn't just a reduction in the overall number per year, but a reduction in the percentage, even as we have experienced exponential population growth in the same amount of time. That gives me hope that the world is finally working toward fixing some of the long-term issues that we have faced as a species forever. People are finally being aware and changing their lifestyles and not necessarily thinking of themselves first. Yes, I'm not so naive as to believe that applies to errbody, but it's enough that some forward strides are being taken. Even occurences of breast cancer, which affects a staggering amount of women, are now seeing a reduced rate. While not cured, we now have sophisticated methods of detecting more types of cancer earlier, which is proving to be the key in reducing the number of deaths from cancer.
So, overall, I think we, as a species, are making some moves in the right direction. If we keep this up and stay focused, we may avoid the dire future predicted in Wall-E. That might mean that we won't end up with cute, trash-compacting, skyscraper-building robots, but I think that's a fair trade. But then again, Billy Gates also mentioned that the scientific community spends more on R&D for baldness than malaria treatment. I don't recall ever reading a story about someone dying from baldness, but we still have malaria killing millions (again, not a typo) every year. Oh well, baby steps, right?
Am I wrong to have my hopes up? I think the world can change, and I'm very excited to see what those changes will be. In my own sheltered world, there have already been many improvements. Case in point, TV has gotten better. We have amazing series out there like Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and The Office. In the past, we've had the influence of TV execs ruining shows like Firefly. Now, we're seeing the writers and producers having more creative control and being trusted to tell the stories they want to. That's not always the case, but, again, baby steps. We're also seeing some steps in the right direction with comic publishers.
There has always been criticism of the Big 2, Marvel and DC, having too much creative input and stifling the writers. That's still pretty much the case for their main titles, which I understand. You can't allow a creative team to drastically alter a major property like Spider-Man or Superman. Properties like that are so mired in all kinds of licensing and merchandising that you can't stray too far from the general public perception of them.
But DC has had Vertigo for a while now, where creators have been allowed to not just experiment with their stories but even the way they tell stories. Marvel recently launched the ICON line, which has some of the same qualities. Of course, writers have always had the option of printing those through some indy houses, but with Vertigo and ICON, they have the support of the Big 2, without being constrained by them.
Out of that concept comes a jewel of a book - Incognito. This is done by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, who are also the team behind Criminal. I spent a good portion of that review kissing Brubaker's ass, and deservedly so. With this new title, he brings the same grit and grime, but he adds some superpower flare to it. When I first read about this coming out, I was so excited I almost exploded into 8 million pieces of rice-shaped Filipino boy. Brubaker is one of my top writers these days, working on this book, Criminal, Daredevil, and Captain America. As I mentioned before, Brubaker wrote another noir-meets-superpowers titles called Sleeper. I figured if Incognito was anything like Criminal or Sleeper, I would end up recommending it to you loyal J!NX readers. And here we are. This is only issue 2, so it won't be so tough to find issue 1 still out there on shelves. I suggest you do that immediately.
In such a short span, Brubaker has created such a rich world of intrigue and suspense. You already feel for the main character, Zac, even though he's a bonafide jackass. He's had a troubled past (of course he has, it's a noir book), but he's trying to get by. He's trying to make it in this vanilla life that he finds himself in, but has no sense of fulfillment. Naturally, as a noir book, trouble finds him, which may not be the worst thing from his reckoning.
This is definitely a book that I will be pushing to show people the potential of comic books. I already have three people around the office way into it. That being said, it should maybe be kept away from younger readers. Violence is assumed, but there's also a more-than-healthy share of drugs and sex. Portions of brain are removed from someone. No worries, though; it's only portions, not the whole thing.
Who should read this book:
People who liked Criminal.
People who understand that even superheroes should be flawed.
People who are in a witness protection program.
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