Saturday, March 15, 2008

Beware the Creeper #2

Beware the Creeper #2, July 2003, Vertigo/DC Comics
writer: Jason Hall
artist: Cliff Chiang
colorist: Dave Stewart
letterer: John Workman
assistant editor: Zachary Rau
editor: Will Dennis

Blogger's note: Entry for Friday, March 14, 2008.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll read anything Cliff Chiang draws. I became a fan during his run on Vertigo’s The Human Target, which was already then and still is today at the top of my favorite series. In The Human Target, Chiang (and fellow rotating artist Javier Pulido) were challenged to balance protagonist Christopher Chance’s internal struggles of identity with his external adventures of sociopolitical intrigue and espionage. Needless to say, both artists rose to the challenge, but while Pulido’s art was a bit more minimalist, Chiang’s work was very substantial and down to earth. I’ve managed to acquire some of his contributions to the Batman books since then, and his brushstroke consistently captures the grace of the superhuman form with the solidity of their respective environments. Chance’s Los Angeles, Batman’s Gotham -- in under Chiang’s pen, they’re viable characters as much as the real characters are.

So, you can imagine how I’d feel about the cover on Beware the Creeper #2. On it, a new, feminine Creeper stands tall over the Paris skyline. I don’t know much about the Creeper, nor have I ever been to Paris, but both are now inviting thanks to this absolute visual interpretation.
If only the story were as easy to behold. This issue is the second of a five issue miniseries, and I must have missed the fluid introduction of its significant players, because this chapter proceeds full throttle. The opening act is entertaining enough, as the Creeper creeps into a museum and steals the Arbogast family jewels, only to toss them in the river. What follows is a multi-scene diatribe about the Arbogasts’ terrible reign over Paris, a veritable anarchist discourse about class warfare and everyman vigilantism. The Creeper is perceived as one part terrorist, one part performance artist, praised by the likes of Andre Breton and Tsuguharu Foujita. (Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Gertrude Stein also make cameo appearances, all in good measure.) If writer Jason Hall’s intent was to establish the Creeper’s legacy as a kooky monkey wrench in historical, global affairs, I consider his mission accomplished.

The real mystery seems to be in who the Creeper actually is; since I don’t know if her secret identity was established in the first issue, I’m torn here between one of two sisters (of course each boasting an opposing side of the political argument, thus each boasting their own legitimate motives for vigilantism) and a little girl with a fascination for the creepy heroine. The little girl has the same reddish hair as this new Creeper, so I’m wondering if the artists intended this as a red herring (pardon the pun) or a genuine clue. Either way, through this re-establishment of the Creeper’s character, she has inadvertently become a thrilling and capable heroine. Her body is totally garbed, and her figure isn’t cookie-cut by comics’ usually outrageous proportions. What I’m saying is, she isn’t overtly sexual, and the allure isn’t about who she is, but what she’s about -- a message I wish more stories about heroines emphasized.

So, yes, I would dare say you should beware the Creeper. The fact that I can’t tell which of the prominent female figures she really is in this issue implies that every woman has a little Creeper inside of them. Further, if all of them were as eye-catching as this version by Cliff Chiang, you’d never see the danger coming. I guess that’s what creeping is all about.

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