By: Si Spencer (story), Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ornston, Tula Lotay, Phil Winslade (art), Lee Loughridge (colors)
The Story: It’s hard—not impossible—to cooperate when you live in different decades.
The Review: Every good detective in every good detective story has a personal reason for solving their case. Sometimes it’s one that strikes them right off the bat; other times it’s something they discover as they go along, getting closer to the truth of themselves at the same time as that of their mystery. It’s what keeps them chasing after tail of a lead through every roadblock in their way, even when every rule of cost-benefit says it’s time to stop.
All four of our investigators have such a reason to get to the bottom of their respective cases. For Shahara, it’s about asserting her identity; for Charles, covering his tracks; self-protection for Edmond; and, whether Maplewood’s conscious of it or not, piecing together the creation of her world. In a series that’s obviously going to be dominated by the weight of its plot, these are the character arcs that will give it meaning.
Of all of them, the one that’s most prescient, relatable, socially conscious is clearly Shahara’s determination to be who she is, not only without shame or fear, but with real regard. In calling out the sexism of her imam, she shows that she demands respect from her roots as much as from the world she’s assimilated into, but it’s the latter that produces one of the most fist-pumping, cheer-inducing speeches on nationalism I’ve read anywhere in a while. When a racist wanker—literally, they find him pleasuring himself in a shack behind his house—claims to be a patriot, Shahara fumes,
“I was brought up on Elgar and Blur. Blake and the Beatles. Shakespeare and a Shropshire Lad. I buy my poppy in November, play the grabber machines on Brighton Pier and watch the queen on Christmas Day. I like fish and chips and spaghetti hoops…I cry when we lose on penalties to the Germans… And last night I had spectacular sexual intercourse with a good old-fashioned white Anglo Saxon man. What exactly are you so patriotic about?”*
By contrast, Edmond is silent about his values, a reflection of his period, and Maplewood is not likely even cognizant of hers. And God knows what Charles is thinking, as he proves more sinister by the issue. [Spoiler alert!] As we peel away the layers of his current zoot-suited persona, we find a man who’s not simply enforcing the law to show who’s boss (and possibly distract from his cultural origins), but who may be getting off on the whole thing. Lying to a Nazi is a minor sin, but it also conceals his own crimes: turning over his young niece for the sexual excitement (possibly worse) of a German officer, then slaying both afterwards with a slash to the neck and a bullet to the head. About the only good news from this guy is that the guy he murdered is not the body we’re interested in.
As you can see, our heroes are still as wildly different from each other as can be, but intersections are beginning to arise. Thanks to Bounce’s serum, Maplewood (or at least, her astral projection) is sent into the past, making a first stop in “the time that once was upon,” where you see for yourself the first prehistoric victim of the Long Harvest, then skipping over the eras of all our investigators before appearing in front of a head-struck Edmond.
It’s rather difficult for me to evaluate one artist, much less four, much less four in the same review, but each of our visual contributors offers admirable results. What’s really remarkable about this set-up is despite their wide variations in style, or perhaps because of it, they never compete with each other. Like good art should be, each perfectly suits the kind of story Spencer wants to tell in each era: cool and sleek for contemporary times, rough and pulpy for the 1940s, gritty and stark for the Victorian period, and vague, childlike, innocent for the brainwiped future.
Conclusion: Fewer connections and clues this time around, but with even greater investment in the characters.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Although “This is my turf…and I’m the Daddy,” is also very, very good.
– Weirdly enough, I’m happy that Barber and Shahara hooked up. I’ll be deeply disappointed if Barber either eats it or turns out to be a blackguard later on.