By: Paul Cornell (story), Ryan Kelly (art), Lee Loughridge & Giulia Brusco (colors)

The Story: And now the presidential candidates confront the real issues—alien abduction.

The Review: Here at the ten issue mark, Cornell would be, if precedent means anything, about a few issues away from calling it a day on this series.  And if that should turn out to be true, it would be the absolute worst decision he ever made.  Given all the major events of our nation in recent days, Saucer Country as a political story, a social commentary, and just as a work of comic book fiction is more important, more relevant, than ever.

I will try to keep my real-world extrapolations to a minimum; it’s always risk to draw comparisons to a story when none are intended by the author.  But I wonder.  Even if Cornell couldn’t have predicted what would happen yesterday morning in an elementary school of Newtown, Connecticut, surely he had other similar atrocities in mind as he made gun violence a focus of this current arc.  Here, however, the shootings are not senseless; they mean something.

With two attacks in a row on the Arcadia campaign, the media immediately work themselves into a frenzy, glomming onto a single, crucial word: “conspiracy.”  To us, it seems the most natural term to hang onto, but Chloe finds its use unsettling, and in the process reveals how much even the minutest details of media rhetoric can be measured and controlled.  “I didn’t give them that word,” she frets.  “I can’t work out where it came from.  That’s very weird.”

Call it a secret invasion of the media landscape, perhaps.  Arcadia feels its threat as much as she does from the gray invaders who targeted her.  In a moment of amazing rawness, she tears into the word, “conspiracy,” viewing it as an act of public laziness, a way for people to avoid their own guilt, an excuse to not rouse themselves to act.  This makes her even more determined to do what she set out to do:

“If I win now, it says the vote still means something.  And just like that the ‘conspiracy’ running the world looks impossible.  I send it running into the same category as flying saucers.  That’s where I want that decadent shit.”

It’s a great speech in an issue full of great speeches, with Arcadia channeling the eloquence and humanity of President Jed Bartlett on The West Wing.  But for all that, it is Chloe, not Arcadia, who perceives something amiss in the chain of events.  As much as the governor sees this supposed “conspiracy” as an enemy, her communications director sees it differently, “It’s like there is a conspiracy—and it’s on our side.”

Nowhere does the evidence pile up in favor of that theory than the big twist of the issue.  Spoiler alert—the fact that it is Senator Kersey, the Democratic opposition, whom the mysteriously reappearing Ms. Bates attacks suddenly throws the extraterrestrial plot wide open, beyond .  It really is one of the more incredible moments in recent comics, so absolutely well set-up and yet so completely unexpected.  It begs so many questions, no less when Ms. Bates explains herself by saying, “We all do what we got to do.  I’m told I won’t be bothered again.”

I could actually go on and on about this issue.  The unsettling security detail and the apparent war on Fausto’s team of devotees, the uncertainty surrounding Michael’s involvement in the shootings, the significance in the appearance of a certain supporting character at the end—Cornell gives each of these substantial intrigue, using the tightest, most impacting scripting possible.  He really is one of the most efficient and productive storytellers out there.

And Kelly has just been killing it on this title for some time now.  Every face he draws, every set, every piece of action and delusion has just been outstanding to look at, possessing that contemporary yet timeless look that makes Vertigo comics stand out.  You have to appreciate how he skews angles to make even a scene of talking-heads look off-putting and dynamic, as if even you can’t take the story within in a straightforward way.  On top of all that, the colors in this issue are not only mild and tense as needed, but downright gorgeous, like the contrast of indigo and orange in Arcadia’s limo as it rides through a sunset.

Conclusion: A momentous issue in every sense of the word, pushing Saucer Country from a respectable read to an important one.  With Karen Berger stepping down, Vertigo needs comics like this to maintain its integrity in the comic book world

Grade: A

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “Blam.”  The most perfectly timed, perfectly chosen line of the entire issue.  And with that, Chloe has anchored her place as my favorite character in this title.

– Good thing Arcadia is Mexican.  No other character in the world could get away with repeatedly referring to herself and her race as “brown” for this long.