Friday, January 11, 2008

Snaked #1

Snaked #1, December 2007, IDW Publishing
writer: Clifford Meth
artist/colorist: Rufus Daygle
color assistant: Liam Shallee
editor: Andrew Steven Harris
cover artist: Ashley Wood

Blogger's note: Entry for Saturday, January 12, 2007.

The current political climate in America, namely the Presidential caucuses, is much like shopping for a new comic book series based on its first issue. In both cases, one's impressions of the candidates occur in waves; of course, the decision-making process begins with the first impression, either the Iowa caucus or the comic book's cover, then progresses from there where ever one decides to focus their attention. Some candidates favor some state caucuses over others, considering the state's party slant and voting history, while some comic readers flip through a first issue's pages to determine if they like the art or storytelling style. Yes, in some cases, folks make a decision based on their presuppositions -- perhaps like always vote Democrat, or they always buy Kurt Busiek. See, the thought processes are surprisingly similar.

Me, I try to lean independent -- in both cases. Regarding comics, I'm a superhero man (not to be confused with Superhero Man, a copyright infringement case waiting to happen), but when it comes to trying something new, I steer away from the DC, Marvel, or even Image legacies. (Draw your Bush, Clinton, and Kennedy comparisons . . . now!) Like Obama's been preaching, I look for change, or more specifically something that will change the way I look at comics. Really, I'm looking for Snaked.

I had a few first issues in my "to buy" pile today, as I perused the new release rack at Comics, Toons, and Toys in Tustin, California, but ultimately Snaked beat them all. Initially, after I saw that large number one, I was taken by the stark Ashley Wood cover, whose work I recently enjoyed for the first time in IDW's latest Tank Girl miniseries. When I flipped through the issue, I noticed the undeniable similarities to, or perhaps even blatant mimicry of, Wood's work with that of interior artist Rufus Daygle, who favors the heavy digital zipatone with just the right balance of strategically raw ink work. Tank Girl was beautifully illustrated but lacked a certain linear quality I like in my narrative, so I hoped Snaked would combine these two preferences, so I flipped to the last page to read the last line.

Yes, I'm one of those people. I often read the last line of a first issue to determine if I'd like it, even if only as a singular installment. Since first issues are a reader's first impression of an entire story, I figure the writer would want to leave him with something substantial -- an equally positive last impression that would make the month until issue two unbearable. So, looking at Snaked (spoiler alert, obviously), what would you think of this cliffhanger statement?

"I know Timmons better than most people . . . I don't believe he'd eat a penis. Monster or not . . . Timmons is a Republican."

Okay. I'm listening. (See, that political comparison was more than just a clever, relevant opener, eh?!) Who wouldn't read that last line and wonder, "Who's this Timmons, and why is he eating male genitalia?" Timmons, and the man telling his story, were advisers to Senator Clinton pre-9/11, and when I say "pre," I mean the opening act begins on 9/10. Really, most of this issue is anecdotal stage setting, as character archetypes and relationships are established; in Timmons' case, he's the most straight edge in Clinton's cabinet, until, sometime after 9/11, he apparently participates in another senator's pet project, Project Snaked. Years later, inexplicably in prison, Timmons kills a cellmate, then takes a bite out of crime, literally, in a scene I'll spare myself from describing. Our narrator, once a cocky political aid, becomes a hospitalized psychiatric nutcase, afraid this Timmons has broken out of jail to find him. Knowing what he's capable of, I'd be scared, too.

Writer Clifford Meth uses the narrator like Bryan Singer used Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects; he seems very vulnerable, yet the reader suspects he knows more than he tells, particularly considering how he disavows that gory prison sequence despite in the face of Daygle's vivid visuals. Meth has a few aces up his sleeve, and I'm definitely interested in seeing what comes next.

Of course, I'm hoping that Snaked doesn't shed this colorful skin in favor of a more dull shade, that it doesn't settle into a predictable political thriller with just a sci-fi subtext. The trappings are there, but the potential is more powerful. Again, how much like politics is that? Once you cast your vote, you're kind of stuck with the outcome in spite of yourself? Or would you lead me to believe that everyone buying a commitment-based series like Countdown is loving every issue? When the title implies the wait for its conclusion, you know that's a term you can never get back.

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