Been a slow month; with all the spring cleaning, recovering from con flu, and finding a roommate i've not got a lot done on dream life - grumble - nice chunk of the layouts but wanted to have more of the art done by now too. Any who, starting to get going, here's some stuff from the last few nights whittling.
The sounds of Strings and chanting recorded on the way to the Ms Guided Zine Launch
Opportunistic recording of Strings and chants in the Montreal Metro. A busker called to me from cathedral like chambers in the Jean Talon Metro station in Montreal, on my way to a live show. Some exuberant young people coming down the escalator broke into the moment with a team chant, very much like i recorded years ago in the NY city time square subway station...
This was at a zine launch, Cass was helping out set it up and i tagged allong. There were a few good local bands/acts, and one god awful one from out of town. But this is one song by someone who's voice was just amazing, reaches out and grabs you.
I have to check in with the organizer, for now only know her first name is Meghan Riley, she has some opera training and she's also very charming in person. We [Cass and I] were both smitten. I'll post some more from this show shortly, want to get the info sorted first....
Spring breezes are helping to loft Therefore Repent! on the wing...
Man did/do i have a lot of spring cleaning to do! Been at it for a week now. almost done though. Feel itchy to start finishing some of the DL pages for act 1. Poked in to panel and pixel just now, John Muth posted me a link for a review on io9.com for Therefore Repent! By Annalee Newitz. Not to sound too stroked but it's nice reading a review where it feels like the reader has totally got what you hoped you were trying to say. Lots of comments too! That's cool. :)
Imagine what would happen if all the right-wing Christians suddenly floated up into the sky, and your wiccan lesbian neighbors could suddenly do real magic. That's the premise of magic realist/scifi/defies description graphic novel Therefore Repent!, written by the awesome scifi author Jim Munroe and drawn beautifully by Salgood Sam. What appeals about Munroe's post-rapture tale, aside the believable characters in outlandish situations, is the way it serves as a progressive, humane rejoinder to the Christian scifi novels in the Left Behind series, whose premise is almost exactly the same.
Munroe is one of my very favorite scifi writers — he's the creator of the nanopunk film Infest Wisely (free online!), as well as the author of Everyone in Silico, Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask (free online!), and An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, the prequel to Therefore Repent! This is his first foray into comics, and he takes to the medium well.
We meet Mummy and Raven, a couple of artists who used to do an act where they dressed up as a mummy and a raven, as they are searching for a home in a world turned upsidown by the rapture of hundreds of thousands of Christians. Those left behind are divided between "splitters," people who are trying to go as Christian as possible so they'll be taken up during the Apocalypse (this includes George W. Bush), and people who are happy to live in a world free from Christians. Mummy and Raven are among the latter, and they've moved into a cozy squat left abandoned by its raptured inhabitants. Things start to get even more unhinged, however, when angels in military uniforms start machine gunning "sinners," and dogs start to talk. Plus, ordinary people are starting to develop weird magical powers — one woman can send email by attaching ethernet cables to her piercings, and Raven herself can create birds out of smoke.
As the wiccans, lesbians, and punks start to band together to fight the paramilitary angels, Raven and Mummy start to have relationship difficulties. Mummy is flirting with the cute indie rock girl at the bar down the street, and Raven is keeping her feelings so bottled up that she's become psychologically stuck. This is the great thing about Munroe's writing, always: he manages to write weirdly sweet romantic stories set against a backdrop of the apocalypse or some kind of huge technological emergency. Salgood's drawings manage to be both dark and funny, cute sketches that shade into shadowy gloom, which perfectly harmonizes with the mood of the narrative.
There's a terrifically great twist ending which despite my love of spoilers I won't give away. Suffice to say, the story stays consistently surprising and weird, and the message is never a simple "Christianity is stupid" dogma at all. Instead, the point is to be careful about what kind of paradise you wish for. You just might get it.
You can buy all of Munroe's books, including Therefore Repent, here.
Some readers are never going to pick up Therefore Repent! when they hear about the plot. The graphic novel imagines the biblical Rapture, with the righteous floating up to heaven, and the sinners stuck on a miserable earth roiling with war and suffering. It just sounds too much like it might be the work of a smug Christian author, offering a book-length Jack Chick tract to a general comics readership. Bible camp for the heathens.
Not only is that an erroneous conclusion, it's a far too simple one. What writer Jim Munroe and artist Salgood Sam have done here is to join mystery, horror, romance, and the lurid excitement of eschatology in a complex tale that manages to be spiritually moving without resorting to organized religion.
We begin with Mummy and Raven, a couple of free spirits wearing the costumes it sounds like they are, as their way of protesting this whole Rapture business. They wander the post-Tribulation streets, squatting in apartments abandoned by the righteous, trying to cook up food without electricity and survive by their wits in a collapsed America. They confab with Jews, Muslims, drinkers, hippies, and "unbelievers" of all stripes, looking for resources, friends, and meaning in a bereft world.
The cover to Therefore Repent. Click for a larger image.Gradually, we witness stranger and stranger doings in this post-Rapture life. Dogs eat the voice boxes of dead people and acquire the power to speak. Some women have the ability to conjure living birds of ash, and cats of dust. The newly pious can walk on water, multiply loaves and fishes, and turn water into wine. Bisexual soldier-angels descend to earth to kill survivors practicing the "dark arts" of divination -- levitation, invisibility, and even drumming circles. It's a mishmash of horrors and wonders that reminded me, with its sheer oddness, of the vibe you get from some Clive Barker stories. Of course, the idea of this particular sick world is only as "new" as the New Testament. I wish I knew more about the Rapture so I could appreciate more here. The genital-less angels, for instance, are a Biblical idea, I understand.
Munroe and Sam convey the action with a deceptively sleepy pace. The practical considerations of what Mummy and Raven should do with their daily surfeit of free time, the bumps in their relationship, and the challenges faced by a few other minor but memorable characters are the meat of the book. We, along with these characters, are waiting for answers. Will there be another, final Rapture? Can the impious yet be saved? Should the stunned non-Christians fight the gun-toting angels of vengeance, or would that be sacrilege? What does anything mean in a world where god has passed judgment, and everyone left is a loser?
The ending is a revelation, in several senses of the term. Let's just say that the Christians may have been right about how the world will end, but wrong about who's on either side of the chess board. And the potential for good people to fight their way to salvation -- and transformation -- in the darkest of times is presented so lovingly, via the delightful couple that is the cosmically tripping Mummy and the defiant Raven (and their talking dog, too), you just marvel at your journey as a reader.
Salgood Sam (the nom de plume of one Max Douglas, spelled backwards, more or less) is a gifted illustrator. His black-and-white drawings are slick like a film storyboard drawn by an exacting crafter. Check out one panel near the end of the book, in which our band of heroes takes out an angel. He falls through the sky upside-down, his huge black wings fluttering helplessly above him on the way down. It's gorgeous.
It might be a good idea to read Therefore Repent! twice, even. Any confusing plot points at the beginning will be revealed as clever little breadcrumbs.
"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammo" takes on new meaning with this one. Highly recommended. | Byron Kerman