Saturday, June 17, 2017

Discipline #1-6

Originally planned as a Vertigo title, the controversial "Discipline" pairs veteran writer Peter Milligan with the imprint's longtime artist and former collaborator Leandro Fernandez. With the series eventually seeing publication at Image, the whole production seems riskier than it would likely have been had the title saw print as initially announced.

At its heart, "Discipline" is an erotic thriller that bills itself as a supernatural coming of age story. It follows a young woman whose longings for escape from a passionless marriage make her a target for seduction by a sect of centuries-old sexual predators. Mellisa has little time to get used to the idea when the organization's natural enemies make her a target. 

And while the basic setup seems immediately familiar, the character's coming to grips with the dangerous new world is genuinely gripping thanks to the creators' efforts. The lithe, whipsmart Mellisa could have easily come off as condescending considering her station in life, but by defining her by her limitations, Milligan and Fernandez turn her into a compelling protagonist. By not immediately losing sight of her life and family once she comes in contact with the mythology they have created, the creators make her all the more believable.

Indeed, despite featuring Mellisa in all sorts of undress, she loses none of her appeal, as her sexual awakening is part and parcel of the coming of age aspect that works in concert with the genre elements. Thus, working in reverse of a traditional superhero narrative, "Discipline" commits to both sides of the adult equation. Having the characters actually engage in sexual activity that is graphic but never gratuitous works to make the story live up to the billing of an erotic thriller. Sexuality in "Discipline" is intriguing and dangerous, but it's also at times humorous and ironic, with the creators' status as veterans in the field enabling them to imbue their story with the appropriate wit and sophistication. 

Fernandez' fluid cartooning keeps up the pace throughout even when his designs for the supernatural aspects of the Discipline and their enemies might take some getting used to. The organization is sketched out in broad terms as a secret society that the creators can't help but tie to major historical figures. Thus, an extended flashback sequence set in ancient Rome features in the follow-up story featuring Mellisa going on her first solo mission in Eternal city. Unfortunately, having a break in publication with the artist continuing to work for the publisher on another title means that the readers have yet to see a definite announcement concerning the title's continuation.

On the strength of these initial six issues, it's clear that Image has grown past a superhero publisher to support a series that acts as a more mature take on "Witchblade". It's another matter entirely whether it will end up supporting "Discipline" until the title connects with it's intended audience. The extended delay may signal that the publisher is considering how to proceed with the property, and hopefully this won't be the last we see of the intriguing characters and set-up behind Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez' creation.

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