The notion of a police state has long been a favorite for futuristic science fiction, but what does it say about us as a society when any time we picture the future, we see nothing but dystopia and despair? Are we merely pesssimistic? Or are we inadvertantly forging the future we envision? How could we let things get so bad without turning it around for the good of humanity? With Max Bemis’ new series Evil Empire we hope to answer those questions as well as this next one: Is it good?
Evil Empire #1 (Boom! Studios)
I have to preface this review by saying I’ve been a huge fan of Max Bemis for going on a decade now. His band Say Anything was a soundtrack to my adolescence, and …Is a Real Boy is still one of my favorite albums of all time. Max’s raw, biting wit and borderline uncomfortable frankness make his music a deeply personal experience, and I’m pleased to discover that his unique style of writing crosses over into comic books very well. This is actually his second comic series, the first being last year’s Polarity, which like Say Anything’s music, mainly dealt with struggle with bi-polar and your inner demons. Evil Empire on the other hand focuses on another tenet of punk rock: raging against the motherfucking machine.
The comic centers around rapper Reese Greenwood, a badass chick with an extreme distaste for the ever-shady state of Washington and the seemingly unchangeable devolution of society as a whole into a corrupt dystopia. Staunchly anti-Republican and creator of the hit single “Knife in the Neck,” Reese stands as a symbol for the counterculture. She one night gets a strange surprise visit from Democratic nominee Sam Duggins who on the surface just wanted to gush to Reese about her performance earlier in the evening, although as we’re dealing with a politician, his true motivation is unclear. As they’re awkwardly conversing, Duggins learns from his security that his opponent (Kenneth Laramy)’s wife has been killed, via—you guessed it— a knife in the neck.
Bemis has a way with words and this is plainly evident in the narrative he has weaved here, told mostly through the eyes of Reese Greenwood. The book actually jumps in timeframe a couple times, showing the dystopian future awaiting us in “exactly now plus 25 years.” It’s an interesting way to show the destination, before jumping back to the present to show the journey. A police state where abuses of power are apparently common is awaiting us, but how did we get there? What choices could we as a society could have possibly made for things to turn out this way? That’s part of the fun of Evil Empire, as scarily prescient as it may turn out to be.
Artist Ransom Getty provides the visuals, and he has drawn the bleak, monochrome feel of the future, as well as the hopeful yet uneasy tension of the present with aplomb. There isn’t too much action in this first issue, as it is mostly a setup issue, but the characters are unique and easily identifiable. And the panels; oh, the panels. I loved the layout of many of these pages, employing large, in-your-face style panels, and multiple full-page layouts. The comic nails using imagery to help set the mood, as seen here when we discover Laramy’s wife is dead:
Love how the action is framed by depictions of hopelessness.
Is It Good?
All this and a killer cliffhanger—which I won’t spoil—that makes me practically salivate waiting for the next issue, and you have about as strong a debut issue as you can get. Max Bemis continues to show that his unique, grandiose writing style translates perfectly from the lyric sheet to the comic page. Pick up this debut issue and strap in for the ride; it’s gonna be a good one.