Changing the world with sequential punching

“Sequential punching” being my new favourite term for comic books.

I’ve been meaning to write about La Muse for a few weeks now. I’ll freely admit that I’m not anywhere near as much of a comics expert as some of my friends, but the basic premise – a near-omnipotent person sets out to try and change the world in genuinely radical political and social ways – strikes me as being a wonderful combination: unique, but compellingly simple in its obviousness. Susan, the aforementioned god-figure, is a likeable hero: approachable, effusive, sharply media-savvy and possessed of a keen eye for injustice. She’s not perfect, either, as her occasional bouts of righteous anger lead her to actions that even she regards as over-the-top (e.g. when she atomises three neo-Nazi skinheads), and one chapter sees her struggling with the loss of her powers.

The art is quite nice as well, which I hear some circles also consider relevant to comics. Ka-POW!

La Muse isn’t perfect, of course. More than a few straw men are set up in the course of Susan constructing her new world as she deconstructs the old. For example, I found one early sequence irritating thanks to its regurgitation of conventional media wisdom about Islam and terror attacks. In it a British-Muslim suicide bomber is flatly characterised as “a sexually-repressed woman-hating moron who wants to kill anyone who’s not like him” – he just doesn’t appreciate his Western freedoms! With Islamophobia being so rife in Britain and the US I would’ve appreciated less of a kneejerk characterisation in a comic that has a demonstrable interest in pursuing social justice. For the record I think terrorist actions and suicide bombing are deplorable, but rather than mindlessly smear those who take such actions I would attempt to understand the actual reasons that drove them to it (I suspect that most of the time it has something to do with illegal invasions, occupations and mass murder in the Middle East by Western states).

But hey. There’s plenty to like, and I was happy enough to swallow my political and philosophical criticisms for its duration. Try it out. It’s online in its entirety at the moment, and I think it’s a thought-provoking read precisely because most people will disagree with at least a few elements of it.

Another comic I recently read online – this time a bit of a naughty one as it was scanned in and uploaded – is the first issue of Genius. The basic premise of this is that each generation has its own military genius (yeah, yeah, blah blah blah historical determinism, just go with it) and in our generation she has been born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. As the comic begins she has organised many of the area’s gangs into a trained, disciplined fighting force more than capable of taking on the cops. It’s a part of a Top Cow competition and I really hope it wins as I’d like to read more.

The comments also make for hilarious reading. A large number of privileged people seem to be struggling with the ideas that a black woman living in South Central LA might have an aggressive “them vs. us” attitude towards a notoriously brutal police force, and that someone might want to make a comic about this resentment being acted upon in a story involving – gasp! – the murder of police officers. I can only suggest that these people imagine that they are in fact reading a story about magic elves revolting against the cruel yoke of Space Nazi oppression. The pages will just fly by.

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