Aaahhh, another week, another posting by me.
This week I have several topics to get to. The first is my inability to post at a reasonable hour. I really, really tried this week but then... drum roll please... I got sucked into television. Not just any television but American Gangster on BET.
I can't help it, I have a weakness for true crime stories. And, I must say, it was quite interesting. This particular episode was about the Chamber Brothers, not the musical band, but the crack kings of Detroit.
It wasn't the best true crime story because it didn't spend a great deal of time on the gang members, but it did spend a time on the socio-economic conditions that created the environment for them to succeed. I read comics, lots of them. Just my ability to afford my particular addiction means that I am not in the environment that many true crime tales develop in. I think that is why I find them so interesting, because they are so incredibly far removed from anything I have or (hopefully) will ever experience that they are interesting.
In this case, the tale of a group of poor, urban brothers that have a modicum of business savvy and manage to gross more in one year that GM. Not to bad! Imagine if they started a legitimate business? Granted, Wall Street ruthless typically doesn't involve killing people in parking lots but I could be wrong about that too.
I also found it interesting the amount of influence this particular group had on the overall American culture, and not just the black culture. They are the basis for the movie New Jack City, and much of the gangster rap that permeated society in the late 80's/early 90's.
One of the best non-criminal related ideas presented was "stop drugs at the border". The premise: if you want to fight a war on drugs, secure the border so the drugs can't get into the country in the first place. WHAT A NOVEL CONCEPT! If the drugs can't get to the inner cities, then the inner cities won't use drugs.
Ah well, on to comics... the best thing you didn't read this week was Surrogates by Robert Venditti & Brett Weldele, currently a tpb from Top Shelf. The is a science fiction crime tale that takes much from virtual reality stories like The Matrix or The 13th Floor but with the added twist that the world is still real. The premise is quite simple, people live their lives through robots. People "plug into" robots and then go out into the world to do everyday tasks. They never have to leave their homes because they get sensory feeds from the robot. For example, you can drink as much as you want through your robot surrogate, feel the buzz, but as soon as you take the headset off, no hangover.
The story opens as several surrogates are "murdered". Of course the operators are ok but the robots are destroyed. The rest of the story revolves around the detective assigned to the case and how it is resolved. The crime aspect is done well but the science fiction elements of the story really have the greatest impact. The questions raised about identity are interesting. What if your public self never had to age? What if a woman could be a man and run the corporation? Would the glass ceiling would disappear? What if you could be a man or a woman or white or black and experience all the world has to offer without leaving the comfort of your own home, would you?
Robert Venditti, the author, does a great job of asking all of these questions and many more. He also spends a great deal of time developing the world through text peices and other items at the end of each chapter.
Brett Weldele has an art style similar to Ben Templesmith or Ashley Wood. It the scratchy lines scanned into a computer to be “inked” and colored. It’s good and carries the story well. But, if you are a fan of that style then it’s great.
Side note: Somehow I have trouble calling people who scan things artists. Call me old fashioned but when did India ink get replaced by photoshop?
Anyway, it’s a great read done extremely well. There are few books that manage to develop characters and storylines as cleanly and succinctly as this book did. Highly recommended.