Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Secret Originals

The Filth (Deluxe Edition): written by Grant Morrison; illustrated by Chris Weston and Gary Erskine (2002-2003; this edition 2015): Those hoping for a completely uncensored reprint of Grant Morrison, Chris Weston, and Gary Erskine's racy, cloachal mind-bender of  science-fiction/conspiracy series will be only partially satisfied by some of the material included in the Extras section. People are still afraid of penises, or at least the erect depiction thereof.

But this slightly over-sized Deluxe Edition is still a good buy, even if only for the slightly over-sized pages and the Extras section. A Morrison blurb reprinted from the time of the first issue's release back in 2002 notes that The Filth is a "Gerry Anderson series on LSD." And it sort of is, at least in terms of Anderson's UFO, which even had its anti-alien defenders wearing wigs and odd costumes, especially on the Moon-base.

'The Filth' refers to several things in the series. It's a British slang term for the police, it's a slang term for pornography, and it's a term for, well, actual filth -- you know, dirt, shit, that sort of thing. 

The science-fictional level of The Filth shows us an increasingly odd secret organization named The Hand devoted to maintaining Status Q[uo] by almost any means necessary, with the help of high-tech, bio-tech, and some good old-fashioned violence. The last is often committed by an extremely angry and foul-mouthed talking chimpanzee who was originally created by the Soviets. He's one hell of a sniper!

The cloachal world of The Hand's secret base, its bio-tech, and the crises it seeks to prevent or truncate bleeds into the normative world of Greg Feely, a porn-loving office drone who loves his aging cat. But he's not really Greg Feely. He's actually Ned Slade, Hand super-negotiator. He's just taking a vacation away from the weirdness and doesn't know it. Or does he? Or is this all the fantasy of Greg Feely's increasingly deranged mind?

And who is Max Thunderstone? Who is Spartacus Hughes? What is iLife? Just exactly where is the Hand's secret base located, given the odd monsters that roam around it and the giant hand holding a pen that loom over them all? Has God died? Are superhero comics actually a good source of tech development? Will Tony the cat, pushing 18, survive? What's buried in Greg Feely's backyard? Will that goddam chimp ever shut up? What is the greater significance of the comic-book superhero named Secret Original? What disaster looms on a cruise ship built to hold over 100,000 people? Will Beverly Hills survive an attack by thousands of giant, flying spermatozoa? 

Well, read The Filth. It's good and it's good for you. You need to be distracted while they operate in the shadows to maintain Status Q. Just hope you aren't judged to be an Anti-Person. Or recruited by The Hand. Highly recommended.

Challengers of the Unknown: Stolen Moments, Borrowed Time: written and illustrated by Howard Chaykin (2004/ collected 2006): The stylish and provocative writer-artist Howard Chaykin gives us a re-imagining of DC's venerable Challengers of the Unknown team that plays with many of the same concepts as Grant Morrison et al.'s earlier The Filth. A world-wide conspiracy secretly turns people into super-agents. The super-agents don't know they're super-agents until they're activated. But something goes wrong, and several agents gain full self-awareness and begin to fight against the conspiracy -- here imagined as a Whites-Only group formed after World War One. It's stylish and enjoyable in the mighty Chaykin matter. The satire of Fox News and similar right-wing outlets and mouthpieces (including Ann Coulter) is savage. No series resulted from this miniseries, so it stands on its own with only partial resolution to the story-line at the end. Lightly recommended.

DMZ Volume 1: On the Ground: written by Brian Wood; illustrated by Riccardo Burchielli and Brian Wood (2005-2006; collected 2006): Enjoyable start to the relatively long-running Vertigo/DC title (well, 72 issues) drops news intern Matty Roth into war-torn Manhattan. Yes, Manhattan. The second United States Civil War has been going on for years, and Manhattan is a point of friction between the United States and the rebel Free States, one of which is New Jersey. Riccardo Burchelli's art is realistic and occasionally startling, while Wood does a good job of beginning to flesh out the realities of life in fractured, fractious Manhattan. Recommended.

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