Sunday, May 15, 2011

Proof 16-28

And we're back. Been a bit since I started this posting with issues 1-15, but there's a lot in Proof. A lot in life to interrupt the blog writing, too.

With issue 16 the story we're in a bit of a transition. It kicks off with the funeral for agent Michael Smith, who was actually a fan who won the honor of being killed in the Thunderbirds story. There's a lot of conversation, whether it's Proof and the minister from the Thunderbirds story or Wayne and his estranged son. In fact the entire first half of the book is conversation amongst various characters, plus some spooky warnings from the Dover Demon. At least Proof gets a date out of it. There's a two page epilogue that starts Ginger's former boyfriend, Marc, being recruited to serve Mi-Chen-Po. The recruiter is Autumn Song, which still doesn't make sense to me, what with her visceral hatred of Cryptids.

The back up story, called Lodged, is a Winnie-the-Pooh inspired story of a baby dinosaur stuck in Leander's office. Well, maybe it's not Pooh inspired, but that's what came to mind for me.

Issue 17 has a guest artist. Kelly Tindall fills in for Rossmo to tell the story of how the chupacabra now inhabiting Elvis's mother's skin came to the US and why. Her mission, which she's chosen to accept, is to get to Proof. Mi-Chen-Po has sent her. It all takes place before she arrives in the first issue of the series. It's serviceable, but I don't know what it does to advance the story. The chupacabra's just as devious before we have the tale. There's nothing new revealed about her character, just that she was sent by Mi-Chen-Po. A back up story called Special Delivery and drawn by usual artist Rossmo has the chupacabra show up with a pie for the imprisoned Dachshund and his compatriots. Of course it contains an iron nail to help them escape the fairies, and she attempts to recruit them to kill everyone around Proof.

Issues 18-23 are the Julia story. This arc jumps between the present and 1860. The latter portion of the story is set entirely in London, when Proof is using the name Gulliver while working for a circus. Mi-Chen-Po works there, too, under the name Gilgamesh. They consider themselves brothers of a sort but Gilgamesh has no love for humans but for one man who has treated them well. That man dies of a heart attack, severing Gilgamesh's ties to humanity, no doubt partially due to the man leaving the cirucs to Proof instead of to him.

Throughout the stories of Proof's interpersonal relationships from more than 100 years ago, there's the threat of Springheel Jack, a fantastic appearing combination of beast and mechanics, of a steam punk sort, with blades substituting for a right hand. Long blades. Springheel Jack is terrorizing London, a la Jack the Ripper. Turns out there are actually two of him and they're both orangutans from the circus who have been equipped by an old man who has an affinity for things mechanical. They're eventually killed, as is the old man (who bears a resemblance to a combination of Albert Einstein and Geppetto from Fables).

More of the story is about Proof and his relationship with Julia. She's not a bigfoot. She's just a human with a condition that causes her to grow hair all over her body in such prodigous quantity that she looks like a small bigfoot. While Proof clearly loves her, she's married to an abusive Englishman who's more interested in exploiting her in the circus than anything else. She wants to be a singer but he wants her to strip down to pull in more crowds.

Once the Springheel Jack part of the story ends Julia and her husband take off for the continent, where she gives birth to a son by her husband. Proof finds them not long after the child is born, but Julia dies from complications of the birth and her husband smothers the child. He has them both stuffed so he can tour with their bodies to make money off them. Proof and Gilgamesh are deeply offended but have very different reactions. While Proof ends up returning to the US to live in solitude, disappearing for about a hundred years, Gilgamesh goes to the Himalayas, where he begins formulating his plans that are coming to fruition now. Before he leaves, though, he abducts Thomas Lent, Julia's husband, and slowly tortures him to death as punishment for how he hurt Proof, not for what he did to Julia or her son.

The story in the present really just serves as mechanism for telling the story in 1860. Ginger and Proof go to Norway to recover Julia's body, which has been discovered in storage in a museum. After Lent was killed the bodies of Julia and her son were dumped alongside a railroad, where the son's body was entirely carried off by rats and Julia's body damaged by the rats. They bring her body back to the Lodge, as well as some remnants of the Springheel Jack mechanisms. Proof tells Ginger much of the story, but I'm not sure if she got the whole story because the last bits after the circus part ended, which comprises additional issues, appears to be told to Bella, the woman Proof is now dating.

Jim mentioned several times during this arc coming out that it was slowing down, and I think that's particularly true of the 23rd & 24th issues. The chase of Lent and Julia, and then the slow torture of Lent, take a lot of page space. I think the entire story could have been at least one issue shorter.

Of note among back up stories is another chupacabra bit. The nail that she smuggled into Daschund's prison is stolen by his nebbish cohort, who proceeds to use it to try to escape. Problem is, he is still chased by the fairies, even though they can't get right up to him because of the iron, which causes him to stumble and lose the nail in a creek. The fairies, of course, devour him at that point. What's more interesting is that the chupacabra shows up just as they finish and recovers the nail. She doesn't seem surprised that this happened, and actually appears quite happy, hopeful that one of the bigger ones will try it next so the fairies have more to eat. Obviously, this is contradictory to the previous stories showing her working with Mi-Chen-Po to help kill Proof's associates and to use Dachshund to further that goal. Me, I'm more than a bit confused as to what the chupacabra is planning.

Issue 24 is another 1 shot, providing a much needed break after the Julia arc. Chris Grine is the guest artist this time. More chupacabra, too, but really it's the story of Joy, the one boy fairy of the three that the chupacabra is raising. He is reaching a sort of puberty. He makes the long journey across the Lodge property to the tree where his uncles, full on giant sized fairies, are sitting motionless, just as his father had done before the mating that hollowed him out. It's harder and harder for Joy to move as he makes the trip, but he's not actually ready to take up his position below the tree. The chupacabra finds him and shows him a piece of his late father, then takes him home. It's almost a child's tale, told from a child's perspective as it is, and with Grine's art being more of a style that would appeal to kids.

The final arc in issues 25-28 is Countdown to Season Two, which I guess is what Endangered is. As I recall, there was some time gap between issue 24 and 25, so I wasn't sure if Proof was even continuing after issue 28 at the time.

Regardless, it takes a strange leap forward in issue 25. It opens a year later. The Lodge is in a stalemate as a group led by Wayne is fighging a group led by Dachshund. A couple boys wander onto the property through a hole in the wall and are taken by Dachshund, but Wayne's forces show up shortly thereafter. Proof doesn't appear at all in this story. Autumn Song is still with Dachshund, and actually gets squished by a fairy in the course of the fight. One of the twin henchman who had been with Dachshund since his first appearance also dies. For some unknown reason, though, Dachshund has a thunderbird that he rides with a saddle. Given his previous modus operandi, I'd have thought he'd eat it. Also strange is that the old rabbi from the Joe the Golem story is with Dachshund's forces. In the end Wayne gets the boys from Dachshund and sets them back in the world, then fixes the wall.

What's really weird about this is that the remaining three issues never come back to it. It's just sort of out there by itself.

The rest of the issue is a short story about Proof and Ginger capturing a berserker. This is a human wearing a bear skin who gets so into that role that he becomes a wild creature. It reminded me more of the wendigo stories from Marvel Comics, though. Proof doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with Ginger or the Lodge and just happened to be in the area where this occurred. There's nothing to say when this story occurs. I have no idea if it's in the "present" we left in issue 24 or the future at the front of the issue.

Issue 26 is a more standard story, but I'm still no sure about the timing of the thing. Joy is now bigger, like a teenager, and Wayne's going with him to speak for him as he goes to take his place with his uncles. Wayne has a heart attack, though, after they get there. Meanwhile, Proof is having a big date with Bella and the Army has come to take over the Lodge, apparently due to some financial improprieties under Leander's watch. Oh, and the Dover Demon appears to have been killed and skinned.

Then issue 27 arrives and we have Leander's wife come on the scene, though she is thought by all at the Lodge to have been dead and buried some years ago. Joy's uncles don't recognize him as the one to take his father's place because Wayne's not there due to his heart attack, from which he wakes startlingly refreshed. Actually, it may not be a heart attack. He may have just passed out when Leander's wife showed up. Anyway, the full grown fairies, Hope and Charity, go to the Lodge to speak with Leander about the new person sitting with them. Meanwhile, Leander's wife tells Wayne she came to the Lodge because someone sent her a severed finger, which she had tested and appears to be from a male sasquatch who's a relative of Proof.

Ginger and Elvis, who found the Dover Demon skin, take the skin to Proof's residence, along with the chupacabra they believe killed the Dover Demon.

In the end, the military gives Wayne 48 hours after Leander appears to disappear, though it appears that Leander was actually a chupacabra and now Wayne is the same one. The Dover Demon didn't die but molted and turned into a Moth Man. Hope and Charity accept Joy as one of their own and go back to their tree. Proof is shown the severed finger and is ready to go look for the owner, who he believes is likely a hostage of an unnamed party (but I suspect he suspects is Mi-Chen-Po). Proof quits rather than take orders from Wayne that contradict his desire to find the finger's owner.

And that's where it ends, with a statement that the story will continue in Proof: Endangered.

While I like the story telling and character development, having re-read the book I find it does have its weaknesses. There's the obvious of the publishing schedule, which is likely resolved with the switch to a series of mini-series instead of a monthly ongoing.

More importantly, I have trouble, especially toward the last arc, determining when things are occurring in the chronology of the book. What did the one year forward jump mean? What does it have to do with the three issues that come after? Just when are those three issues set? Joy can obviously have a different growth rate, and by the time of the one year forward jump he's fully as big as his uncles, so obviously the story takes place somewhere between the end of the Julia arc and the one year forward jump, which presumably jumped one year from the end of that arc. Once Endangered is done I'm hoping this is all clearer.

There are few issues where Rossmo isn't the artist, which is good. The guest artists aren't bad, but they're not stylisticaly similar to Rossmo. The fillers are always on stories about supporting characters, so it works out alright. I much prefer Rossmo's depiction of Proof to any of those, or the various submissions in the back of many of the issues. Rossmo has a very sketchy style with a lot of pencil lines that's well suited to the raw story he and Grecian are presenting. It keeps the look edgy, which feels right to me for a story about urban legends and fables (of a non-human sort totally different from the Vertigo book).

1 comment:

  1. I agree Proof was hurt by its publishing schedule and I agree about the chronology of the series. I almost think this book deserves a remake of the series as it has so many positives and great ideas that the series could be a smash hit if done 100% right. Great review of the series.