By Justin Wood
I used to like that Gotye song "Somebody That I Used To Know." Not passionately, but it came off less aggressively dumb than most of the music playing on commercial radio, something I wouldn't object to listening to when hopping around stations while driving. A perfectly inoffensive piece of mellow breakup music. Then radio, like it does all good music, decided to kill the song via overuse. That year of 2012, that song got comically overplayed, so much so that on one drive down from Virginia to North Carolina I made a game out of seeing how many times I could hear it while channel surfing. Familiarity bred contempt, and while no worse of a song, it is now firmly outside of my interest of ever hearing it again, and indeed it seems everyone agreed to just forget Gotye as an artist altogether. So what do you think Nikola Tesla and H.P. Lovecraft might have in common with Gotye?
These two early 20th century figures are no less interesting as historical subjects and creative and engaging fiction can still be made about them (Alan Moore's recent Providence is a particularly good read for genuine Lovecraft enthusiasts), but they've become so worn as clichéd staples of badly written, un-researched science fiction and fantasy that a book immediately loses a significant portion of standing good will by dropping their names. This book references both men in the prologue.
You know what else is tired and overused? My reviews using the phrase “it's not a terrible book.” I'm weary of that, I really am. Nobody wins with middle of the road. I don't get to be entertained by sheer profound awfulness like Breaking the 10, and I obviously don't get to enjoy the pleasures of reading creative invigorating stories like Who Needs the Moon and Love Machines. With Speak No Evil we get perfect middle of the road. The art isn't awful, but it is unrefined and frequently unattractive. The writing is formulaic, if not fully irritating, and has a fistful of unsatisfying issues, including seemingly anachronistic dialogue, unrefined characters and motivations, and an ending that doesn't seem to grasp how cliffhangers operate. It isn't difficult to read, but it feels like half of a book, not doing nearly enough to establish the core elements of an ongoing serialized narrative.
I could go on about the Tesla element, but it's hard to tell how meaningful his appearance will be to the rest of the series. In the end, that's what stood out, distractingly, in a book of unrelated elements. That's the unrealized cost of name dropping celebrities, suddenly an insubstantial background character demands more attention from the audience and the author, laying the burden of proof at the feet of the writer to show any degree of familiarity with the person they feel comfortable mooching off of the legacy of. Instead, it'd be nice if we could all agree to leave the poor deceased pigeon-loving bastard alone and go about inventing new characters instead. Then, and only then, can we begin the work on the real challenge: creating original characters interesting enough to bother addressing in a review.
Speak No Evil #1
Writers: Justin Corbett & Geoge Tripsas
Artist: Samir Simao