Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Big Lie #1 (of 1)

Image Comics, 27 pages, $ 3.99

Writer/penciler: Rick Veitch
Inker: Gary Erskine
Colorist: Dominic Regan
Letterer: Annie Parkhouse
Cover artist: Thomas Yeates

Arguably, it’s moot to judge something on its merits as a story when it turns out that telling a story was never the point. But given that The Big Lie, released in time for the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, comes with a price tag and is published by Image Comics, a joint that usually tends to publish stories, I think it’s fair game, so here we go.

If you do purely judge this as a story, at any rate, and if you accept the premise that the September 11 attacks are fair game for stories, then the premise here isn’t half bad. The question writer/artist Rick Veitch starts out with is, What if you could travel back in time and were given a shot at saving the people who died on September 11, 2001?

The time-travelling protagonist of the story is Sandra Stratton, a physicist whose husband worked in one of the upper floors of the World Trade Center, and who went on to invent a time machine that enabled her to travel back to the date of the attacks 10 years later.

Unfortunately, that’s when the book throws any pretense at being a story overboard and turns into an all-out advertisement for 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Question: You’ve had 10 years to plan, you invented a time machine that works, and suddenly you’re standing in front of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, about one hour before the first plane hits.

What do you do?

Option A: You call in a bomb threat to get people evacuated. Option B: You run in the middle of a busy cross section and almost get yourself killed by four cars simultaneously.

For our protagonist, Option B is the answer.

When this cunning plan fails and she survives against all odds, Sandra decides to go up to her husband’s office, act hysterically, tell everyone she’s from the future and use her Ipad (wink, wink) to show her husband and his colleagues what’s about to transpire.

This happens on page 6. For the rest of the “story,” Sandra, her husband and the other characters present are hijacked by the book’s overriding political agenda and reduced to exchanging the pertinent Truther talking points.

It’s the comics version of that guy who yells at you in the street, and it’s every bit as engaging.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong about creators having an agenda, of course. If they get a good comic out of it, more power to them. The Big Lie is not that comic, however.

The creators throw the story’s internal logic overboard almost immediately, and it’s clear that there was never any interest in exploring the premise to begin with. The page-to-page storytelling and the characters are one-dimensional in a way that suggests the material was intentionally geared towards meeting its audience at the lowest common denominator of what someone who read their last comic book 40 years ago might expect a current comic book to be like.

For something that pays so much lip service to the notion of “truth,” it’s amazing how little of it made it into the storytelling. The characters in the book are the phoniest and sorriest bunch of exposition delivery machines I’ve seen in a while. No character with a speaking part behaves in a way that’s broadly recognizable as “human” in this story.

Ultimately, it’s baffling that Image published this nonsense—not because of any offensive subject matter, but because it’s such an offensively crummy and ham-fisted effort as a comic. It’s hard to view this as anything but a cynical and fairly transparent attempt to make a few bucks on the media attention on the September 11 attacks.

Grade: F

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