Thursday, May 12, 2016

Broken Telephone

"We care a lot about you people... about your guns
About the wars we're fighting - gee that looks like fun !
(it's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it)"

Faith No More - We Care A Lot

Broken Telephone is surprisingly acceptable.
When you see comic book artists gettin' politicalous you kind of expect the usual glorification of American middle-class political activism, or in other words political correctness. Especially if the cartoonist(s) in question happens to be a product of American art schools. Women are saints and men are pigs, homosexuality is morally superior, gay pride parade aesthetic tastes are the pinnacle of civilization, nature is good and technology's evil, foreign people are better than you unless they're white, being "spiritual" is smarter than smarts, religion's only evil if it's not new-age jumbled mumbo or Wicca (that shit's totally Buddha-level enlightenment) vegans are martyrs being oppressed for their beliefs and shoehorning a black guy into the White House will totally change that white house's stripes. Also, slogans fix everything.

Broken Telephone is certainly a product of that culture but it's one of the saner varieties. Its overall tone acknowledges the unavoidable fact that activism is as often as not a matter of self-aggrandizement and not genuine progress, while not betraying the dire necessity for progress. As a collaborative project, its artwork may make readers cringe from one chapter to another (I could not stomach The Gecko's chapters) but remains largely readable. The dialogue's clever enough (in places threatening to drift too heavily into one-liners) but it's the plot's play on expectations which makes it stand out.

The extent to which it panders to conceits like those above is somewhat debatable. Certainly a breakdown of positive and negative roles still reveals a predictable bias. However, the plot's various twists and turns give the lie not only to such presumptions but to sitcom tropes and action movie heroics as well. Beneficent do-gooders and hard-bitten hired muscle are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In particular the scene of the great speech by the hero of the revolution (and the rejoinder thereof) was quite brilliant.

None of this, however, is going to make me listen to the sequel in podcast form. Avoiding human voices is one of the main benefits of reading comics.

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