This promised to be a queersploitation, and not only that, one set in Kingston, Jamaica. Awesome. After all, I loved Django Unchained, which is given as an example of a blaxploitation movie, while also portraying slavery as evil and vile and wrong, and even having one white main character proclaim this. (One could argue that a blaxploitationmovie movie written and directed by a white man is unauthentic at best, and problematic at worst. Regardless, I loved it, and I thought that it treated the characters who were slaves as if hey were human beings, giving them as much dignity as was possible in their situation.)
That being said, this was a nice bit of exploitation, digging into what it means to be gay on a police force in a town where you were considered subhuman if you were gay. At one point, after Virgil has been outted, a newspaper proclaims that it's shameful for the police force to have had a gay man serving their country.
However, Kingston is so poor that it would have been interesting to see how this tied into the homophobia, if at all. There are vague statements made about money, about if Virgil has any, about the crime since they are police officers, but I think this would have been valuable in the exploitation narrative. Instead, it was mostly ignored.
Also, the afterword says this: "Foxy Brown showed us an assertive female hero unashamed of who she was. VIRGIL offers this in a gay man." What Virgil provides is a man who is unashamed of who he is? He lies to a friend for ten years, he lies at work, and his solution to the ultra macho workplace environment is to fuck female hookers in order to pass as straight. Then again, he has to do so. This graphic novel presents a narrative in which if you don't pass as straight, the cops can, and will, kill you. Even if you're one of them.
I'd argue that he's as unashamed as he can be, but this narrative provides no safe space in which he can truly be unashamed. (Except Canada, which is touted as the holy grail for gays in Jamaica. They can go out and get dinner without having to hide who they are, and this seems to be one of the ultimate goals: to be out on the street without fearing for their lives or having to hide who they are.)
This line bothered me, that this was conceived as a proud, gay hero. A proud, gay hero who was in the closet so he would not die. Literally so he would not be killed.
The narrative as portrayed was fast moving, offensive (and aware of it, confronting this head on), sympathetic to the plight of the LGBTQI community, and almost perfect. But the problem was that Virgil was written as if he were unashamed, and I never got a connect between that, and him sleeping with women. (This was not a matter of confusion; he knew he was gay. It was, and I stress this again, a survival tactic.)
Either way, I enjoyed this, but the disconnect bothered me enough to knock down one star. But this is brutal, violent, and uses offensive language, so if you're not down with that, I wouldn't dive into this.
No, seriously! While some of this - the girl gangs, the implied teen-death - are kinda messed up, the relationships between all the teens are adorable. This makes it the most adorable Battleworld yet!
It's fun, it's cute, and it's completely worth reading. What if all the best of the best of every domain were in one school? Well, this. And it's fantastic. It's got all the hiccups you'd expect, and it's got all the attitude you'd expect.
Can't wait for issue two.
The main plot still centers around Earth and Blackrock and all that jazz. More and more of the other plots, the subplots on Cybertron, are seeping in, and those interest me far more. The fissure between the Autobots and Decepticons - that isn't supposed to exist - deepens, even on Soundwave's refuge. Plots that have been seeded before this issue - Cosmos and Soundwave's rickety understanding, Needlenose being pushed over the edge by the death of the Decepticon Horri-bull - start to come to fruition here. They haven't been played out yet, but it's all starting to take shape.
I like where this is going, and I hope that it all culminates on Cybertron, getting all the Cybertronians off Earth. I realize this might not be the case, but even veering more towards Cybertron based storylines is enough for me.
I haven't been that happy with the way things were going. Star ratings, and reviews, have reflected this: I find the Cybertronian aspects more interesting. Why have an alien culture if you don't focus on what's different?
This hasn't been happening. The arguments between humans and Cybertronians were too much like human conflicts to show me much that was different. I haven't been as excited about this series, even with Thundercracker and his dog, Buster, who amused me so much. And while I wasn't happy with the turn of events, the characterizations remained as excellent as usual, and so the dip in stars reflected this too: fours, maybe threes, but not much below that.
It's wonderful to see this explore a little more of Cybertronian culture, to get back to Cybertron, and to see it rise back up to the five star status. Here's hoping that it continues, although the next issue promises much more of Thundercracker and Buster - both on Earth. Hopefully those two, however, will keep me entertained as they have a rather lovely relationship, and there might be more Cosmos and Soundwave, and that all bodes well.
Crossing fingers for a continuation of this vein, however.
And just as a belated, final note: I thought it wouldn't get more heartbreaking for Needlenose than when Horri-bull died. Having to explain that it wasn't a mistake to love him to Tracks, his brother, was pretty awful. And then what happened to Tracks? Needlenose watched the Decepticon he loved, and his brother, killed in front of his eyes, one by the Autobots, and the other by Decepticons. (Although they're still leading us along with Horri-bull's death: the Decepticons allowed him to die, and Needlenose doesn't know this yet. I still wonder what will happen when he finds out. For now, though, Horri-bull's death acts as a catalyst for him to join the Decepticons once more, and even get a little fanatical about it in the meantime.)
I would read so much more in this series. I don't usually buy novellas, but I would buy a whole run of these.
I absolutely love this world, and if anything, these prose novellas prove just how much I'm still in love with, and in awe of, the world that Watasin has created. It feels as slyly subversive and cheeky as it did when I first picked it up, cheerfully skewering so many comics that have come before, comics like Betty and Veronica, or even Sabrina, which were at heart full of wholesomeness. (Arguably, Sabrina is more overtly controversial with the 'witch' aspect, even if Sabrina, and her predecessor, Bunny, are good witches.) Except that Betty and Veronica would never consider cozying up to each other, and Bunny would definitely consider cozying up to her girlfriend, Dean.
And thus Watasin cheerfully turns such standards on their head, and does it with a humor and warmth that charmed me from the start. It continues to do so in this new form. Not only does Watasin stay true to the origins of these characters, she makes the jump from visual media to that or pure words seamlessly. It goes off without a hitch.
Well, actually one hitch. I really wanted to give this five stars flat and would have except the beginning of chapter three. You get the three, an empty page, and then it starts of smack in the middle of a sentence:
"poem or a song of a long ago time."
Location 494 for those with Kindles. And I know it's not anything that important based on context. I didn't lose any meaning as far as the overall story. But I want to know what that said. It annoyed me enough to put this down for a couple seconds, and then I plowed through. And it was worth it. The long awaited - has it really been nearly fifteen years? - last comic? It's here. It's not in the format I expected, but it's here, and it is glorious.
It's the best ending I could have hoped for. (I know there's another novella coming up, but this is the best ending for the comic series/this story that I could have hoped for.)
Loved it. Highly suggested, even with that one hitch.