World Comic Book Review

Black Summer (revisited)


Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

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HOW CAN HE EVER FINISH WHEN HE DOESN’T BEGIN, Alice thought when the Mock Turtle took a long time finding his voice to tell his story, though the obliging Gryphon who led Alice to the spot averred the mock turtle really had no story, it was all only in his fancy, that. All just fancy. Yet it’s not fancy, once you begin to excavate the facts surrounding our balmy existence, consumerized and bound together in a giant web, while life stumbles and plummets on the perimeters. Possibly we can feel the sigh underground in the electronic mycelium mat surrounding the world as the light dims, feeling the evil in our bones similar to the sense of distortion in lies and deceit that can make you crazy, scrambling the mycelium mat of our collective mind. Only trust binds us together.

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Aiming to make a beginning no matter how hard must be what strip author Warren Ellis thought when he started penciling the story called BLACK SUMMER, representing the United States of America in what must be 2005, in an imaginary setting with super-heroes as social justice warriors with real power to make a difference. The action does not feel like fiction, more like a strategy session, a war game you have to play to get savvy to the dire situation we are in, where no one wants to stand up to state the facts and demand appropriate consequences of our most powerful leaders and institutions. Or as portrayed here, the loudest and strongest yell to tear it all down and extirpate the corruption, with no helpful ideas how to do that, as if a fresh start will be enough to establish freedom for all in a natural state, like a blessed garden we fall into once the weeds are gone.

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By the publication date in 2008, evil government operatives and corporate cronies were standard dramatic props. By now, it feels quaint to see the hero expecting that exposing the crimes of the American president and his cronies will make a difference. He mentions two stolen elections (which in real life set a new low standard for democracy around the world emulated by an outrageous breed of stupid bosses), as well as corruption, torture, and illegal war. That last one is good. Sounds simple. The fiery explosions so well illustrated by artist Juan Jose Ryp help remind us of the enormity of the crime inflicted on Iraq and it’s people and it’s ancient civilization in 2003, blown up by explosive rocketry in shock and awe by leaders of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Poland, demolishing the reputed Garden of Eden.

“I’ve never killed anyone before today” one of the heroes complains as her city explodes, “and I’ve been killing people all f*ing day.” This is our legacy and our time.

This story and the art, melded together, are iconically American. The main message appears to be that we need to start believing in words again. If we cannot respect intelligence, find and rely on intelligence to impose order and discriminate between things, the result is barbarism, a simple philosophy of might any animal knows.

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