Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Puppet Needs Scissors

One thing about tracking down back issues as singles rather than trades is you get all the ads. There are so many comics out there I'd never heard of, even just from Marvel and DC. Sometimes the ads make them look interesting enough they become the next thing to track down. Which is how I ended up with Skreemer.

I'm not familiar enough with Peter Milligan's work to know if this is Good Milligan or Bad Milligan, as I've seen him referred to online. Steve Dillon and Brett Ewins handle the art chores, though the exact division of labor is unclear. They're both credited as "artists", though several of the faces are strongly Steve Dillon's work.

The present in the story is 38 years after the fall of society. In the aftermath of that, gangsters rose up and assumed power, calling themselves "presidents". Now, however, things have stabilized enough that things are shifting away from them. Politicians and businessmen have begun to reappear and assert themselves, and the "presidents" are going to have to make a change. But one of them, Veto Skreemer (that's him in the middle, with the bitchin' fur coat), the most powerful of them, is having none of it. So there's his plan to turn things back, the other presidents' attempt to remove him (and each grab power for themselves), and there's Skreemer's history, going all the way back to his beginning.

There's a parallel thread about a family, the Finnegans. They aren't gangsters, they struggle to survive, and suffer numerous setbacks because of the actions of Skreemer and his ilk. The patriarch, Charlie, loses faith on more than one occasion, drowning himself in booze, or self-pity and guilt. He's a great fan of "Finnegan's Wake", which I'm sure would have more meaning if I'd ever read it. All I can discern from this is that a guy dies, comes back, and attends his own wake.

That certainly has bearing on Veto, but I don't think he knows anything of the song. The occasions where he met Mr. Finnegan, he paid him little notice. Still, it is relevant. Skreemer believes he knows his future, and has for 30 years. But because he knows it, he feels frozen in place. His every action is preordained, and he merely carries out the stage directions. In a sense, he's been dead for 3 decades, but has been here nonetheless. Which makes everything since his wake, I suppose. It's his opportunity to relive his life with all his friends, such as they are.

What's curious is that, for all Veto claims to despise being "trapped" this way, it never seems to occur to him to try and change it. That's unusual enough in fiction. Most characters, when they glimpse the future, see something they want to change, but can't perceive the consequences of doing so. Instead, Veto takes advantage of it. He takes risks no one else would because he knows what's coming, and in doing so, ensures that he stays on that path. It owes to his feeling damned from birth, that he has it coming, and the only way to get free is to start over, a rebirth. It's a bit ridiculous, because the act he blames himself for, he shouldn't. What he should blame himself for, and what does damn him, if you believe in such things, is all the lives he destroyed because he didn't have the guts to try changing anything. Even when it forces him to take actions that work against himself, he goes along with it. As far as he's concerned, everyone is a puppet. Just because he can see the strings doesn't mean he can cut them.

It contrasts nicely with the Finnegans. They don't know what's coming. There are no certainties for them, other than hardship. They are dealt one setback after another, and they keep trying. Charlie remains a good man, one who loves his family, but doesn't want to survive by hurting other people. He believes he has a choice about whether to do that or not, and he tries hard not to. It's the moments he fails, or the times where he succeeds and it costs them dearly, that hurt the most. But he and his wife keep going. They have faith things will get better.

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