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I'm Cathy Leamy, a Boston cartoonist and medical writer. Check out my comics! They're mainly about health care and autobio stories.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2004

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Kitty on Global Frequency: Planet Ablaze

I finally got around to reading the first trade of the Warren Ellis-written sci-fi craziness maxiseries Global Frequency. As usual I'm about ten hundred years behind the curve.

I love the concept behind it. A massive worldwide network of over 1000 operatives, any of whom could be tapped in without notice to come and deal with insane sci-fi catastrophes. It's like those Puma commercials with the Jamaicans, where Joe Average is having a beer until TAP! Now he's running the relay. So much personal projection potential. That could be me! That is, if I actually had useful skills beyond making granny squares and quoting Law and Order.

And I love the ideas. Warren Ellis reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft. Both offer stories with such mad ideas on cosmic scales of pure ballsy incredibility. The first time I heard about the "an infectious meme gets downloaded through SETI@home" plot, my jaw just about hit the floor. AHH SO COOL! Warren Ellis is the king of pop sci-fi, world-threatening concepts that could easily show up in next month's Discovery magazine. The differing ideas and varying tones of writing are also served by rotating artists, who help to keep the presentation fresh and new.

Overall, however, the execution feels a little too disposable for my taste. An issue opens, the Ellis Device is explored and defused, the issue ends, let us never speak of it again. It's a constant stream of "Monster of the Week" episodes with a new cast every time. I don't have any emotional investment in these people, and I never see any aftereffects. What happens after the Evil@Home meme is destroyed? Will anyone start investigating to make sure that no other Norwegian towns are located on top of crazymines, or training Guardian Angel-style leagues of Le Parkour runners to keep cities safe since the one in issue 6 was successful?

I had similar issues with Ellis' run on The Authority. There was all this talk about more realistic superheros and how actual cities were being destroyed, but after the Ellis Device of that story arc was addressed, we never really saw much of the rebuilding, so the stories never had much resonance with me. Where's the aftermath? Do these people ever get proactive about things rather than just waiting for the next big explody? Maybe in Global Frequency, this is addressed in the next volume and all of this trade is meant to lay the ground. Even so, I don't tend to have the patience for manga-style extended episodic plotting like that.

An additional negative aspect to having a new Ellis Device every issue is the need to explain it, which results in a lot of chatter among people who are meant to be in tight situations. It was great to hear the ideas explained, but so much talking took away from the sense of danger. For example, I would have been more tense if Sita Patel the Le Parkour runner hadn't been constantly accompanied by expository chatter about the bomb she needed to reach.

In short? Definitely an outstanding read, especially if you are a science fiction or cyberpunk fan. My personal tastes lean toward longer stories with more character development and I felt it while I was reading this, but quick pop teases with madcap ideas are also tasty every now and then.

in other news
Thanks to Magical DJ Sileni's colossal skillz, my bike's repaired. Hooray! I spent some nice biking time this weekend zipping around and visiting places like Mount Auburn Cemetary.

Biking in one of the worst biking cities, though, reminded me that I hate everyone and everything. Oh yeah. People who toss lit cigarettes out of car windows. Pedestrians who cross against the light. Bikers who don't wear helmets. Double-parking in the bike lane. Complimentary groin-mashings courtesy of all the potholes on Mass. Ave (read: Ass Ave). Gigantic SUVs. Spotty bike lane markings. Arrrgh, roiling with hatred! I'm gonna take it out on some hapless bystander and get popped in the jaw, I just know it.

2 comments!     click to join in

1 Nicklas   (6:16pm - Sep 16, 2004)

Ellis' popcultrure ideas for a comic -- mostly visible in Global Frequency and Planetary -- are interesting but as you say, they lack the big picture. They're deviced as stand-alone issues, something that I think is needed today as eveything else is a apart of these large soapoperatic ad-hoc arc.

But at the same time they don't read so well in collected form. You can't read them in one sitting because the structure becomes too noticeable.

The Authority however, I thought they were so above the much that they just didn't care what happened after they left. It fits considering that Ellis somewhere said he considered the superteam as fascists.

2 Kitty   (10:01am - Sep 18, 2004)

That's a good point about the presentation. If I had read these when they were originally released in their serial form, I might not have reacted so negatively to their pop nature. I would have had a month or more to stew on each idea rather than dealing with them all at once, one after another like Pez candy. Still would have missed ongoing character development, though.

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