Split Apart for New Perspectives

A review of Brent Nichols’ “Inquisitor” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran Press, 2016)

By Derek Newman-Stille

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In “Inquisitor”, Brent Nichols creates a future in which people can send copies of themselves to new planets, allowing one copy to begin life on a new planet while the original lives out their life on the first. Each copy lives their life out at a different rate, allowing each to have different perspectives and each to gain wisdom from their experiences.

 

An Inquisitor for a fascist empire called The Regime that used political and religious control on the population, has spent his life chasing after a rebel leader, chasing him from planet to planet with a focused obsession. Yet, in his travels, he has discovered that the Regime he is fighting for had been overthrown a decade ago while he was still pursuing his quarry.

 

The Inquisitor has to rely on the wisdom of his other selves, who have lived out longer parts of their lives on other planets and discovered more about the horrors undertaken by the Regime and more about the live of his quarry in order to gain experience of the world to see it in a new light and question his single-minded obsession.

 

Brent Nichols gives readers a critique of moral absolutism and obsession and an awareness that perspective is shaped by our own time period and the things that we believe are truths may not survive the passage of time.

To discover more about Lazarus Risen, visit Bundoran Press’ website at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen

 

To find out more about Brent Nichols, visit his website at http://www.steampunch.com/about.html

 

Psychiatric Survivor Superhero

A review of Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight Vol 1: Lunatic (Marvel, 2016)

By Derek Newman-Stille

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Writing about mental illness tends to be challenging and most authors tend to reify disempowering tropes of mental illness, projecting people with psychiatric disabilities as villainous, problematic, dangerous, and incompetent. Jeff Lemire’s 2016 rewrite of Moon Knight challenges some of the assumptions about mental illness. Although still unclear about which psychiatric disability Moon Knight has, Lemire explores the idea of Moon Knight as a character with mental illnesses (which was first established by Alan Zelenetz and Chris Warner’s mini-series about the character). Whereas Zelenetz and Warner described him as schizophrenic because of his multiple identities (which is actually more characteristic of dissociative identity disorder), Lemire avoids specifically mentioning what the superhero’s mental illness is and complicates the idea that he is mentally ill.

 

First set in a psychiatric institution, Lemire’s Moon Knight encounters a fractured reality where the psychiatric institution may actually be a prison construct by Egyptian gods. Moon Knight experiences a multiplicity of possible realities and Lemire resists telling the audience whether his realities are actual visions of real worlds or whether they are manifestations of his own delusions.

 

This trope of “is it a manifestation of mental illness or is this person seeing the reality that is hidden” has been played with in numerous science fiction media (including the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Normal Again” and the Star Trek the Next Generation episode “Frame of Mind”), asking the reader to question the nature of reality. This trope in Sci Fi normally portrays the asylum as a space for the mental breakdown of the character, encompassing the idea that asylums are places of escape from reality.

 

Lemire questions and criticizes the construction of the asylum as an institution, illustrating the horrors of life in an asylum and portraying the asylum as a form of prison. Lemire’s characters want to escape from the asylum, to find new possibilities in the world outside, but Moon Knight is constantly questioning and critiquing his reality and the world around him, inviting critical questions about the nature of the mind and the nature of psychiatric institutions. Lemire doesn’t provide answers about which of Moon Knight’s realities is authentic, but instead invites the reader to look at the world through multiple lenses, with multiple different possible realities. Moon Knight even shapes his own mask from a straight jacket that is draped over his face with a moon drawn onto it, and when he wears this mask, he experiences a second vision of the world, which he believes to be true.

 

Lemire’s exploration of multiplicity in the world is augmented by Greg Smallwood’s art, which frequently plays with multiple different visions of the world overlapping. Smallwood brings attention to the character’s vision by constantly focusing on the expression in his eyes, devoting several panels to the expressions that Moon Knight projects through his eyes. This is a comic that is focused on vision and multiple ways of seeing the world, transforming the world into a shifting, changeable plane.

 

To discover more about Jeff Lemire, visit http://jefflemire.blogspot.ca/

 

 

 

Detective Drama with Bite

A review of Melissa Yi’s Wolf Ice (Olo Books, 2015).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Every crime scene is unique and every investigation of a crime scene has its challenges, but those challenges are magnified when the victim is a werewolf and she disappears under suspicious circumstances around other werewolves. When Elena dies, everyone is uncertain how to proceed. Human police can’t be involved, and all of the werewolves present have to rely on their various skills – medical, tracking, and hunting instincts to explore the multiple levels of secrets and suspicions surrounding this death. The werewolves are motivated by their caring for the victim and by their need to find safe territory to create an environment where they can be themselves. Yet the murder complicates their sense of belonging, their ideas about themselves, and their relat8onship to the human world. 

Yi complicates the relationship between the werewolves by exploring the power of physical urges and unwanted attractions that both complicate the lives of those investigating the murder because of their awkward sexual tensions toward each other and add multiplicities to the motivations for the murder as well, because all too often, murders are related to sexual tensions.

Melissa Yi’s Wolf Ice puts a new spin on the current fascination with CSI shows by inviting us into a hair-raising adventure.

You can discover more about Melissa Yi (Melissa Yuan-Innes) on her website at http://www.melissayauninnes.com