If I could travel back in time I would tell Max Bemis that no one should ever write about campaigning for a political office or politicians in comic books unless they’re from Blue Water Comics. They at least have the sensibility to write a comic with no more depth than a Wikipedia entry and accompany it with mediocre (at best) artwork. The main reason being that no one gives a hot damn. The vast majority of comic readers and not engaging in political campaigns, going to rallies or donating money so that a the person they’re voting for can buy some gas for their fleet of buses and move on to the next city. As someone who reads comics and also stays current on politics I can also say that I don’t do any of those things either. The other reason that I would tell Bemis not to write a comic book about politics or more so a comic about campaigning for office is because there’s very little he seems to know about it. Maybe he does, but it didn’t come across in this issue. Instead it read more like a first time Hollywood script that scraped up just enough research to feel comfortable about writing about the subject, but not actually having any real knowledge on it.
The issue itself begins in L.A. following a man in a wheelchair crossing the street in what looks to be the early morning. Suddenly a pack of college looking kids swarms the handicapped man and begins beating his ass. A dude runs at them with a knife and scares them away and one of the college kids makes a threatening remark to the man. At first you think that it’s the kid the man will have to worry about, but we soon see some Hitler Youth looking dudes wearing a ridiculous getup. They ask what the guy was doing and then pull guns on him. From the transition into the next page that introduces the main character Reese, we can assume that they shoot him based on her lyrics… “Bang, bang.”
There’s a narration that accompanies this opening and for the life of me I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be a character in the story or just Bemis’ own exposition to the reader. The gist is that all your sci-fi dystopian futures are stupid and don’t have any grounding in reality… and now here’s how he’ll think we’ll end up in a dystopian future. The point is that Bemis says “everyone else got it wrong, I got it right.” That’s something that’s better left to the promoting of the book rather than the opening narration. It frankly doesn’t fit the scene and has very little to do with the visuals.
The rest of the story is about a female rocker that sings about politics and how fucked up society is, meeting with one of the presidential candidates because he’s not married and a fan of her music. Then there’s the ending which I won’t spoil, but it’s a total swerve; unfortunately it’s not one that makes any sense.
You won’t see it coming because there is no lead up to it. It’s could have been a rainbow shooting out of someone’s ass all of a sudden it was that fucking random. The issue is all about politics and how fucked up society is and then the last page just smacks you with the biggest “Huh?” ever.
I’m a huge fan of when music and comics mix. I have read so many things that mixed the two that it’s a personal favorite of mine. Hopeless Savages, Blue Monday, Nix Quarterly Comics, Bandthology; these are just a few off the top of my head that all have strong ties to music in their stories. I never thought I would hate music in a comic, but Max Bemis made it happen with Evil Empire.
It’s not that Max isn’t a competent musician and songwriter; it’s that it doesn’t translate to a comic book in the same way. Also singing about politics is about as interesting as writing about them so there’s that as well. It was painful to read the lyrics that Reese was “singing” and it was more painful to imagine the music that would accompany such bars as:
“Homes, you’re like a right-wing comic like you was brought here by a comet. To wear tights under tight whites you make me vomit.”
Yeah I know… terrible. Sadly Reese is a great fucking character, she just happens to have shitty lyrics and be stuck in a story that wants to shackle her to the next president as arm candy; but only after establishing how bad ass her potential is.
I will say that the art is fucking fantastic. I loved the visual storytelling on each and every page, but the written narrative and dialogue didn’t support how great it was. The opening with Reese is visually striking and captures the aura of a live show, but then those lyrics come in and shit the bed. If there was any reason to buy this book it would be for Ransom Getty’s amazing artwork. Getty makes a wake beautiful for Pete’s sake and that’s not something I see myself saying or writing again anytime soon. Chris Blythe should also be commended for the wonderful coloring on the issue. It’s vibrant and lifelike and amplifies the realism of the artwork… especially at the wake.
It could be that this comic just isn’t for me. I was not a fan of Bemis’ first foray into comics, but I know that most people gobbled up Polarity as if it were the most original thing to hit the comic industry in a decade. I’m sure there will be a similar response for this as well, but ultimately I found it to be preachy (just like Polarity), heavily reliant upon narration that doesn’t actually further the narrative (just like Polarity) and basically dull (you know where I’m going with this). It’s unfortunate, but even the shocking, completely out of place twist ending isn’t enough to bring me back for more. Sorry morbid curiosity, you lose this round; but so did I with this comic.
Writer: Max Bemis Artist: Ransom Getty Colorist: Chris Blythe Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $2.99 Release Date: 3/5/14