Friday, September 26, 2008
"The Resurrection" is an ambitious project produced by Marc Guggenheim in partnership with Oni Press. Guggenheim is a Hollywood screenwriter, that has produced some mainstream superhero comics work, and is the co-creator of ABC's "Eli Stone" TV series. Oni is a small publishing house dedicated towards aiming beyond the traditional comics audience, perhaps most famous for being the home of "Queen & country" and "Scott Pilgrim". Together, they developed "the Resurrection" as a very HBO-friendly comic book, which has since being optioned as a film by Universal, despite having made little buzz among comic fans. And yet, with the proliferation of independent titles featuring post-apocalyptic settings, it works very well as a comic-book, and I'll try to review it as such, instead of grouping it with TV's "Lost" and "Jericho" it still has a lot in common with.
Looking at it in terms of an ongoing series, "Resurrection" is much more akin to the survival drama "Walking dead", than the more heady "Y the Last Man". In fact, thanks to the enthusiasm of multiple independent creative teams, it has debuted in a marketplace that is already publishing several similar series, chief of which are "Wasteland" and "Drafted". Speaking of "Drafted", it's interesting to note how the American comic book scene has been very open recently to the alien invasion scenarios, no doubt for their unique ability to both serve as escapist entertainment, as well as discuss the world's current political issues from a very specific standpoint (which is something that even Marvel has figured out, re-focusing all of their superhero titles to feature the threat of alien Skrulls).
"The Resurrection" offers a very distinctive standpoint, though, it's high concept concentrating on the world that has just repelled an alien invasion. That way, the basic sci-fi idea is tweaked just enough to form a unique hook, but still squarely falling into the domain of post-apocalyptic fiction, which by now has become such a durable sub-genre that most of the readers know whether they like to read that particular brand of fiction.
Guggenheim dresses the series in a very fluid and distinctive format, never letting up the pace, keeping reader on his toes with well-chosen flashbacks and a never-ending series of sharp turns. Through all of the cliff-hangers, his dialogue remains very dynamic and life-like, eschewing the highly stylized fantasy speak for the realistic approach, that is in keeping with the way the series always keeps it's foot on the ground. Still, from the start the series was troubled with long delays between the issues, which are all too frequent with independent publishing. It's clear that a lot of thought and ambition went into the project, and perhaps we have Hollywood to thank that both Oni and Guggenheim have not given up on the series and are still pushing to have it published and remain on the shelves until the end of the story.
Still, even as the creator of the series, Guggenheim can only do so much, as he has to rely on Oni for the promotion and, most importantly the art department. The publisher has tapped David Dumeer, the artist of John Layman's "Armageddon & son" to depict the post-invasion Earth in a style that is both down to Earth and gritty. Dumeer's work is very effective when it comes to clear layouts and his characters are all distinctive when it comes to age and body type. Still, some of his work is very uneven, and even at it's best, his pages look a rushed, with characters sporting an almost caricatural look, that clashes with the book's tone. Perhaps it would've been better if Oni had invested more in the project, at least by giving Dumeer an inker that would help his work stand out a bit more, thus complimenting the project itself and rounding out "the Resurrection" as a really formidable independent title. It goes without saying that the addition of color would've also benefited the book immensely, and at least Oni has promised their readers that much, when the series soon returns for volume 2, as even the washed-out look of the covers helps give the book more energy and excitement.
Action's certainly not something the book lacks, as most of it's characters are forced to constantly prove their mettle in the new landscape. The creators start off with a small cast, that has been chosen very carefully, giving us a look at many different and essential character types, spotlighting both the major and minor players in a natural way. Even though the book frequently employs flashbacks to depict the events that happened both during and right after the invasion, most of the times we're it's very clear what's happening and the events depicted have direct repercussions on the characters and new situations they found themselves in. Adding to the fact that it's not uncommon for the story to suddenly jump a few weeks in the future, it's goes to the creator's credit that the book remains cryptic in the right way, even when referring to the people and events that have happened during the invasion the reader knows very little about.
The authors also take great pains to avoid falling into the irony some of post-apocalyptic sci-fi chooses to employ by not depicting the actual cause of world-wide catastrophe. Even though the story is about the human spirit dealing with the ultimate challenge, "the Resurrection" is always clear that the human race faced alien invaders, usually through the enigma the alien technology still poses to the American survivors.
The story does not shy away from using hard language and some grizzly depictions of violence. It goes without saying that it's all a part of the way the heroes of post-apocalyptic Earth would have to behave, in order to rise out from the wilderness and make their place in the new world. Coupled with the fact that most of the depictions of the alien threat, both during and after the invasion, have been very low-key and symbolic, it still makes one wish to see it all depicted as a pilot to an R-rated mid-level budgeted TV-series.
And yet those concerns are moot, knowing that Universal has bought out the film version, and that "the Resurrection" is a very decent and interesting comic in itself. Despite the success of some of the creator-owned comic-book movie adaptation, American comic-book industry is still heavily focused on superheroes, even though most of those readers would do well to give this series a chance. Ironically, it could very well happen that they end up discovering Guggenheim's creation through the movie version and in a roundabout way come to give their much needed support to an original series published by a small but ambitious publisher that needs it.