My perspective on these creators may be different from most. I know writer G. Willow Wilson from her Vertigo work (the graphic novel Cairo and the series Air), and artist Christian Ward from ODY-C, his Image series with Matt Fraction. Those projects are likely closer in spirit to this series than their more mainstream comics work. But this is a science fiction story with a much different premise.
There are two protagonists. One is a hardened freighter pilot, working for the mega-corporation that dominates commerce; the other is a young religious acolyte, joining an order that is explicitly in opposition to the commercial world. When they independently uncover evidence that these opposed organizations are in fact collaborating, it threatens both of them. The pilot stands to lose her job, and the young nun’s faith is shaken. When they threaten to reveal what they know both the corporation and the religion attempt to shut them down.
Under pressure, they decide to broadcast the truth. This would normally be the climax of a long narrative build-up, but the news is greeted cynically. So what next? A surprising end to the first arc, which finds the ship heading out into the universe with no clear plan. Ward’s psychedelic visuals are a big part of the impact of the story, even if they are occasionally hard to decipher. Wilson has created some memorable characters here, which promise interesting future developments.
Actor/activist George Takei has been speaking in public about his Japanese American family’s experience in internment camps during World War II for many years. After an opening scene depicting his childhood memory of the family being rounded up under Executive Order 9066, the scene shifts to an adult Takei speaking at a Ted talk in Kyoto, Japan in 2014. He goes on to describe how his parents met, and their early life. Takei was their first born (after losing their first child at three months old), so they named him after English King George VI.
They have a good life, but everything began to change with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack brought out irrational fears of Japanese Americans: they were described as “inscrutable” and “nonassimilable,” by U.S. government officials as high as the Attorney General of California and the Mayor of Los Angeles. Eventually President Franklin Delano Roosevelt bowed to public pressure and signed the executive order.
The centerpiece of the story is the account of the family’s life in the camps. It is informed by the talks he had with his father as an adolescent, and his own adult perspective. But at its heart it is his authentic childhood memories that give it its charm. As a child he did not understand the significance the event had for his parents: it was an adventure! It included the “pure magic” of his first snowfall, and a visit from Santa Claus. But there are also complications like the renunciation of American citizenship which his parents accepted during the war (thinking it would be best for the family), only to be threatened with deportation when the war was over.
Of course Takei also briefly discusses his acting career, including a humorous story about first meeting Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (misreading his smudged note, Takei read his name as Rosenbury). He was able to use that fame to address social causes, including Congressional testimony that helped bring about the apology and reparations finally issued by the U.S. government for the wrongful imprisonment of Japanese Americans.
Apart from its appeal as memoir, Takei and his co-writers include a great deal of historical and Constitutional discussion that is likely to be news to many readers. It certainly was to me. Artist Harmony Becker illustrates it in black and white, employing a fairly basic, Manga-influenced style. It’s functional enough, but some of her portrayals of historical figures are not completely accurate, which took me out of the story.
Lodger finds David and Maria Lapham in familiar black and white crime noir territory, a creative space very similar to their continuing magnum opus Stray Bullets. When Ricky Toledo was fifteen years old she fell for a handsome drifter who was renting a room in the family home–before he killed her mother and framed her father for it, sending him to prison. Armed with her trusty Smith & Wesson 45 named Golddigger she has been on his trail ever since, using hints from his travel blog called Lodger.
When the story opens Ricky is eighteen, and the twisted history is revealed gradually. We see her arriving in a town talked about in the blog, where she is quickly caught up in a series of extreme, sometimes violent events. It’s a turbulent story that doesn’t really make sense until the back story is filled in, but surges forward on sheer energy.
The killer is a charismatic character who charms men and women alike. He’s also a master of disguise, which is visually confusing until almost the very end. This is the weakest aspect of the story: it’s hard to keep track of the serial killer when you can’t recognize him. It’s as if he doesn’t even recognize himself. Towards the end he confesses to Ricky that he just becomes what the person he is with needs. He can’t become the character Dante that she fell in love with.
The time jumps in this story are similar to the ones often used in Stray Bullets. But since this is a five-issue miniseries they happens in a much shorter story telling frame, and there are no clear chronological cues. So the story can be quite confusing, in a way that does not seem intentional. Fortunately the Lapham flair for colorful characters with complex motivations is very much in evidence, making this an interesting (if flawed) read.