We’re often introduced to totalitarian establishments with pundits already fully in power and it’s up to our hero to bring back order and peace. EVIL EMPIRE explores how unfolds in a real-world setting. How close to the precipice are we right now in the world we live in? Would we let it happen? More specific to this tale: Would we secretly WANT it to happen?
How far will people go to take a stand in what they believe in?
Say Anything frontman and Polarity creator Max Bemis’ gripping story explores the world watching modern society gradually evolve (or is it devolve?) into an evil empire.
Evil Empire, vol. 1, by Max Bemis, Ransom Getty and Andrea Mutti 6.0
I picked up ‘Evil Empire’ after reading a list of “must-read” comic books in the aftermath of Trump’s idiocratic win. Emboldened by a fairly engaging ‘Punk Rock Jesus‘, which I’d found on the same list, I went in blind, not knowing what it was really about.
It seemed to me that, contextually, the title said it all.
But little did I know that the book is written by the leader of rock band Say Anything and that it would purport to show us how the United States would slide into a dystopian, totalitarian future. And that it was published by Boom! Studios, spiritual cousin to SyFy.
It flashes back and forth between the present and the not-so-distant future, some 25 years from now, where it’s chaos, ruled only by EEs, who are merely hoods with badges. In that future people do whatever they want and the EEs crush all opposition of any kind.
In the present, however, it’s election time, and Reese Greenwood is an extremely popular singer who shouts down the system – until she gets sucked into it to some degree by Democratic presidential candidate Sam Duggins, a closet punk rocker and fan.
When his Republican counterpart admits to a terrible crime on a national broadcast, it leaves Sam with an open path to the Presidency. But what initially seemed to Reese like a sign of positive change turns out to be anything but: darker secrets lie in wait.
After all, the present leads to the Evil Empire.
Frankly, I wasn’t especially impressed with the book right at the onset: the author began by ranting at us, putting the responsibility for the Evil Empire on his readers, caller him/her a “useless prick”. Wow. That’s so provocative. And such words suggest so much depth.
Mildly offended by the tone, I carried on because I was curious to see the connection.
Well, if the connections were made, they were unclear to me with this first volume, which instead served up a torqued story full of unlikely “twists” and BS melodrama. It’s as though Bemis was targeting an audience that could only be stimulated by intensity.
You know, frustrated teenagers, fans of ‘The Fast and The Furious’ and MMA, that sort of thing.
‘Cause, really, ‘Evil Empire’ doesn’t make any sense:
- As if Laramy would just lose it like that and admit to his crime on TV. A seasoned politician? Never!
- As if the spouse could be stabbed in the back of the neck like that (and with a hunting knife, at that!) and survive long enough for her daughter to arrive from school. As if she wouldn’t tell her who did it.
- As if that Laramy was just playing along the whole time, but that he’s actually wracked with guilt.
And so on and so on…
Its audience would explain the gratuitous violence, like showing someone’s head getting blown off so that we can see right through the hole, with the blood splattering at us. So unnecessary. It’s visceral, just to get a rise out of the people who get excited by violence.
You know, the very people the book purports to warn us against.
Or does it?
Seriously, my first impression is that ‘Evil Empire’ is an irresponsible book. Though it wraps itself up in the flag and purports to warn us against walking down the road to perdition, it makes the very thing we should be wary of thrilling and exciting – not scary, dangerous.
It actually serves to stimulate bloodlust, not abate it.
Here’s my thing: Bemis argues so strongly in favour of the world view that Laramy espouses that this book virtually condones it. He makes absolutely no effort to counter that view with equally credible arguments for the other side; they just want to keep the status quo.
But why? What’s so good about the status quo?
Show us the absurdity of Laramy’s worldview, show us why it doesn’t work; don’t just serve up examples that support its questionable value. If you don’t bother to counter arguments in its favour, then you’re at least tacitly supportive. Here, Bemis is promoting it.
It’s very dangerous, as some people will buy into it – people who haven’t thought it through.
People who might even act on it.
And I’m not even saying that the arguments in favour of Laramy’s worldview are strong, either: they’re merely presented forcefully, with no real opposition. That’s all. In fact, one could easily argue holes through it all, given that it’s strictly fueled by anger, not logic.
Sadly, the artwork is no better. It’s passable, though fairly uneven, but it actually gets worse after three issues, with a new artist taking the reigns – not just changing styles completely, but lacking even the minimal accuracy of the former. This book is not eye candy.
So, ultimately, I’m at a loss as to why ‘Evil Empire’ was considered a “must-read” in a few circles. It’s incendiary, but it’s not intelligent. And the last thing we need right now is yet another mindless match for the powder keg; this is decidedly a delicate time in our history.
If you want revolution, fine. But be smart about it.
‘Evil Empire’ is anything but.