Thursday, 4 September 2014

New Beginnings - The Names #1

by Matt Puddy

So when I picked up this new issue of Vertigo’s new title of The Names I thought “What’s going on here then?” On first inspection I saw a woman in a slinky dress with a knife. On second look I see the silhouette of a falling man and numbers... lots of number and even some equations. Even the cover of this comic is subtly saying that there’s more to this than at a casual first glance.

You know something is wrong the moment you start reading Peter Milligan’s tale, as you are introduced to a character who could be incredibly influential to the story, but is being coerced into a suicide note and then throws himself out the window. An unwilling scapegoat, perhaps, of the man known as the Surgeon.

Faced with the apparent suicide of her husband Kevin, combined with the new “revelation” that maybe her husband suffered with depression, Katya Walker starts to unravel a little. Her husband potentially wasn’t what she thought and she has a selectively mute stepson that she doesn’t know how to communicate with. Eventually all the frustration starts to seep out. It’s only the arrival of a strange phone - complete with a cautionary if not also cryptic message - that awakens a new side of Katya.

All the while the wheels are turning in the background.  A shadowy cabal, that the Surgeon is part of, plays with the world's finances on their individual whims. However, even this isn't going quite according to plan as they are even plagued by The Loops – a sentient program that is causing even them problems.

Behind another door, Philip (Katya’s stepson) is showing there is more to himself as well. Aside from bordering on mathematical genius, he also has a very soft spot for Katya. Hidden away in books are pictures of her and he feels an amount of remorse towards his father, as if he has done something or feels something he shouldn’t. You can’t help but wonder what his involvement is, or will be, with the bigger picture.

Desperate to get to the bottom of this mystery, Katya starts to use the information from the phone - even if it didn’t make sense - to entrap and drag information out of Marco, a man that is linked to it all. Will it open everything up, or will he just have a snippet of information that points her in the right direction? She’s not going to rest until her husband is avenged. Wall Street meets Kill Bill.

I like Peter Milligan’s writing, I’ve enjoyed his Five Ronin series, as well as when he started off the Red Lantern titles, so it’s no surprise I enjoyed this as well. One criticism though is that sometimes the direction changes in the story felt a little abrupt. The narrative jumps were jarring, with little or no connection to the previous section; there is little natural flow to the story. You still get wrapped up in each new section though, but it can throw you a little.

Leandro Fernandez has put a lot into this and through the letter at the back you got a brief glimpse at the consultative approach that creating this comic has taken. His style is fairly minimal, only using details when needed to highlight specific things when needed for the story. He’s also managed to create some interesting forms and archetypes. Katya is a strong female protagonist, but without being overly muscular or becoming super heroic parody of a human. The Surgeon on the other hand is gangly and creepy, the stuff corporate nightmares are made of. Even Philip gives off a very sombre feel that fits his implied character as well. Although it’s a little subdued for my normal tastes as well, it still looks really good and as I said the characters have a real feel about them.

It makes a nice change to have a story that isn’t revolving around superpowers or the supernatural. OK, so a secret syndicate of incredibly powerful and ridiculously immoral men running the world from the shadows isn’t anything new as conspiracies go, but it certainly adds a different dimension to the story when an apparently normal person has to break that, whilst also including the cyberterrorism angle as well.

Put all together it’s not bad at all. As you might expect form a Vertigo title, it is an adult (or at least teen) comic with realistic violence and partial nudity.  Plenty of things to come I reckon, including what the hell Kevin meant about Champion!?

Matt Puddy is packing up and heading to LV-223...

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