Boom! studios. Bemis, Getty
I enjoy coming into new series like this with little to no prior knowledge or expectations, or having read anyone else’s reviews, and this time is no exception. I’ve not read Polarity, the previous series from writer and Say Anything frontman Max Bemis, nor have I seen any previous work of artist Ransom Getty, so I’m seriously flying blind here folks. That’s why I love doing this blog though; it encourages me to read and think critically about stuff I wouldn’t necessarily have read.
Onto Evil Empire #1 then, a book with a premise that one could say is not the most original – a world just like our own, except governed by the titular Evil Empire. Where this book attempts to break new ground however is the time period it’s choosing to focus on. Rather than entering this story at the pretty cliched point where a rebellion against the empire is forming, this issue is taking you back to show the break down of a normal society and it’s transformation into something dark, twisted, and wholly different from our own. What minute steps are taken along the way, that while seemingly not much on their own, all join hands and form a sinister chain of events to a unrecognisable society that’s lost it’s way? Would any of us even see it happening? Would anyone be able to prevent such a gradual change? While the plot of this inaugural issue takes a bleak turn, and the final page is brutal beat, it’s difficult to see at this stage how it leads to the totalitarian state seen at the start of the book, and that I think is obviously the point.
“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper.”
It’s definitely caught my attention. The flash forward at the beginning of the book to exactly right now. Plus 25 years practically force feeds you the idea that this is not like your average dystopian tale; we’re not overrun by apes, or controlled by machines in a false reality or dominated by a Death Star just yet; no, this is set exactly right now and is, I imagine, set to show us just how that future comes about. With heaps of allegory and political awareness thrown in for good measure.
Our companions on this journey are Reese Greenwood, self titled rebellious rock star out to make a difference in the world and fight the power, and Sam Duggins, Democratic leader on the Presidential campaign trail. Their paths cross when Duggins heads backstage after one of Reese’s gigs and declares himself a big fan of her work, then cross again when a prominent political murder throws the country into disarray.
Bemis does a good job of starting off small but escalating the situation within the final few pages, and while the execution of ‘this is like our society!! This could be us! This is how fragile our system is and how it will crumble!’ may be a little heavy handed for some, I’m interested enough to see how the reported 16 issue maxi series pans out. Likewise the art is enjoyable – clear but not pedantically clean, there’s room for a little rough around the edges within the panels, and the faces are very expressive.
The end result of the downfall in 25 years is laid out (albeit briefly and ambiguously) in the first few pages, so the reader knows where the book is heading, but this is a tale that’s very much about the journey, and I’m on board for the ride.