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22 Brides (revisited)—“Give me the nerve to hit a nerve”

Writer: Fabian Nicieza

Artists: Scott Lee, Jimmy Palmiotti

Event Comics, 1996

ARTISTS CAN GO ANYWHERE they want. The record of their art allows us to follow. Even at a distance we can walk their corridors, whistle their tunes, enter their imaginations, and marvel a little how we keep talking so animatedly to someone is long dead.

I was running for shelter from current strip romances blended in fantasy and reality, bloated with death squads of various sorts run by the state or by the absence of a state in cities and countrysides all over the world, raising chaos to a new level of crime with upgraded weaponry; I was tired of violent fiction and yearned for facts, and then yearned for fiction again; and landed on 22 BRIDES in four slick issues from the early 1990s, before the end of the world had quite dawned on us.

Let’s do the tiiiime warp again.

Hard to keep straight the differences in all the girls, or women, or brides, whatever, and not sure they are all or any of them straight. I am pretty sure there are only eleven, not twenty-two, but they have friends, like Painkiller Jane, which is how I came to know them. Jane shows up here in splendid fury. We have seen thousands of two-bit crime dramas with guns and dames, and multiple layers of bad guys, and only a few sparkle like this.

All of us seek the light, from the tiniest plant onward, and it’s temperate radiance is the key dimension for everything to endure. Give us the light!

Yet must we endure the same air as slime like the criminal villain here denounced in the end by Painkiller Jane, who rises from the dead to tell him he is too plain stupid to even be greedy or evil, just straight on domineering to make life look like the way you want it to be, duh, like your pure interest is the only tool you can think of to dally in your hand, regardless what it does to other people. The light of self is so powerful and enduring, beyond all contradiction. Kill it then, like bad dharma.

Yet with Painkiller Jane as the primordial model, we know the self cannot be destructed, but always resurrects. Gotta have a selfie with yourself one more time, meaning in the end, gnostic retreat is futile, death is no triumph, and you have to deal with the slime along the way to stay civil outside your front door.

The 22 Brides have their own specific concerns, like saving mom who was wrongly imprisoned and threatened with unjust punishment to save her daughter, and all that, and I am really grateful to writer Fabian Nicieza for keeping the tempo popping. The best pleasure is finding the signature art style of the 1990s in sharp angles and heavy inking on coated paper, not schlocky like so many of its tribe about that time, instead truly top notch like a hot New Wave sound. Pencils by Scott Lee and inks by Jimmy Palmiotti make an illustrious combination that sent me off searching for Lee through various incarnations that were never quite as fine as this. The inks sharpen the details here just right.

Also, it has to be said, scenery of babes with big guns and resolve, for some reason, always works to calm one’s nerves. Now back on your heads.