On This Mortal Coil...
Accept no body.
Though long a maxim of comics, since superheroes
constantly resurrect, know that here, it has a very different
meaning. That dire three word warning shows up as a come-on
on the back of the first Mortal Coils trade paperback,
lurid, threatening and yet strangely inviting to fans of
horror. Though a bit of blood and viscera do appear in the
stories that wait within, writer A. David Lewis has something
a bit more psychological in mind.
as this collection is called, serves as an introduction
to a vast conspiracy to avoid fate. Cleverly on Lewis' part,
this transcends religious belief and ecological concerns,
though those believed by religion seem rather concerned.
Quite simply, something is going to happen to reality as
we know it, and a group of people are determined to control
it, even if they have to commit greater evils in the meantime.
Read as individual
stories, the tales included here wouldn't give you a clue
as to the greater plot. (A couple still don't - yet.) Instead,
and this is the good conceit of Mortal Coils, each
story stands on its own as a disturbing meditation on life,
death and the morality that lies between.
Some stand out
for their science fiction elements, such as "Deeper Blue,"
the tale of a man being hunted by androids killers. The
title works as both allusion and metaphor for the story
itself. Regardless, it's a gripping short story, proving
that that artform is far from dead. Indeed, as smart as
Mortal Coils is, it wouldn't work if it weren't also
of tales might even challenge your own sense of ethics.
Last year, I'd picked up the third issue on its own, with
its stories of an unusual grief counselor and a miracle
cure for Alzheimer's Disease. That latter may have become
even more timely in the intervening months, and the second
time around became even more thought-provoking. Again, how
the stories fit into the larger puzzle doesn't matter here;
their significance unfolds as slowly as the finely played
chess match on the cover of the trade. (And there's that
Deep Blue again…)
Each story has
a different illustrator, with varying results. For the most
part, they're solid and similar, though Jesus Barony stands
out with his work on the one color piece, "The Line." Sometimes
the choice of subject and artist turns out to be excellent,
such as with the first story that clearly links the rest
together, "Dungeon Horrible." J.K. Woodward uses a style
much lusher than the rest of the book, reminiscent of Stephen
Bissette's work, and it wakes the reader up.
The trade gathers
a few extras in, including sketches from artists who have
not yet been persuaded to do a full story. One of the more
bizarre inclusions is a strange meta-fictional talkshow,
which I think may have come from a webcomic, called "These
Things Happen." It's the weakest part of the book because
it starts calling too much attention to how hard Lewis is
working at being clever. The end of the trade includes annotations
that I both appreciated and grew annoyed by; it became too
easy to cheat while playing spot that reference. And it
makes it harder for a reader of the trade to draw his own
conclusions about what a story might mean. Don't let us
see the man behind the curtain.
Of course, that's
a temptation that's hard to avoid with a work this literate.
With all kinds of critical acclaim and a foreword from Mark
Waid (who must know what he's talking about), it's clear
that Mortal Coils is a series that should be better
known than it is.
So Fanboy Planet
adds to the clamor: this is disturbing stuff. But I mean
that in a good way.