Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Can't believe that one cop's talking directly into his vaping rig.

With Spire's Christian Comics line, I often feel it's necessary to mention that the message of the story is often absolutely fine, but that the delivery distorts it into some alarmingly unpleasant contortions. It might just be that matters of morality - Spire's evangelical milieu - are the providence of nuance. Taking complicated matters wherein material reality, human aspiration and the ideals of spiritualism all grind up against one another, then simplifying them down to the level where even the kiddiest of kiddie-winks can absorb it, it turns out, might just transform even the most well-intentioned parable into a grim, inflexible and wholly untenable pantomime suitable only for the glass-eyed zealot and the occasional serial killer.

Teens today, always trafficking in dirty limericks.
As a for instance, meets Crossfire, the comic about a cop with Jesus in his heart who apparently saves every lost soul in an entire community but, to take it at face value, is the case for unquestioning submission to authority.

Crossfire might, like a lot of Spire comics, be based on a book, a film, and/or an actual event. I'll leave it to you to inform me. I'm pretty sure it wasn't an autobiography, anyway, because the main character dies at the end. It's a gifted memoirist who can capture the moments of his own demise on paper, to be sure.

The story follows the travails of teem life as seen through the eyes of officer Mike  ... uh ... Simon (it's page 25 before they tell us his last name, and his wife doesn't even get a first name until the page before that). In one busy night, Matt arrests a "loaded" teen driving a $6000 car (woo) given to him by an uncaring father, a teen gang member who participated in a 27-person stab party on a corpse, and a teen prostitute, I think? It's a pretty chaste little world in Spire comics, so it's hard to say exactly what she's brought in for, but she IS wearing her shirt tied up all Dukes of Hazzard style around her boobs and everything, so probably a prostitute...

The causes for all of these crimes routinely turn out to be lack of caring parents and an out-of-control media, naturally. If violent movies and sexy magazines can ruin kids, then comic books can save them, I suppose. The irony of it is, of course, that Al Hartley can't really represent any of this without being more than a little sensationalist himself. The advocacy for and rebellion against the Bible is presented in fits and screams (it's either one exclamation mark or three, there's no periods in sight and no one's ever just moderately enthusiastic about whatever it is they're shouting), and it's worth mentioning that we do get to see the dead body, even if we don't see the dirty pictures Officer Matt finds in young prostitute Dianne's handbag.

It's the Poka Man all the kids are so crazy about these days
In this world, it's either grinning obedience to authority or absolute chaos, everything collapses if you do so much as watch the hit movie "Sensational Crime Show." When confronted by a hostel full of angry teens (a hostile hostel, I might suggest) who criticize the police for "taking away our freedoms," Matt replies with a homily I'm sure is drawn straight from the Bible: One involving traffic laws.

"When you come to a red light," he argues, "You give up your freedom for thirty seconds." This is certainly true, we've all been watching the news lately. "If you decided NOT to give up your freedom," he continues, "You might give up your life!!!" Or, in 2015, you might end up giving up both. Traffic stops have become sort of lethal around here lately.

"We either make order," he justifies, "Or TOTAL CHAOS!!!" I can't hesitate in suggesting that this is the argument of a stooge.

Anyway, the story ends with Officer Matt and his fellow cops happening upon a hostage situation initiated by cartoon yippies ("A militant did it," one cop tells the grieving soon-to-be-widow, "A record a mile long and out on bail!" Oh lord, our broken system, huh?) who are, naturally, holding sweet, innocent kids at gunpoint. Matt bites it liberating the toddlers, expiring with a positive message of peace and love while Maynard G.Krebs' more violent cousin is hauled away in cuffs.

From there, everything goes all It's A Wonderful Life as everyone Matt ever helped - and that turns out to be everybody in Bedford Falls - congregates by his bedside to hear his confusing message about love. This is a message about unconditional love which involves turning your back on a lot of people unless they agree with you completely, but perhaps it's a matter of inches.

"Matt's murder proves there's a devil --" his widow informs the reader, looking straight at us through the panel, "--the way he died proves there's a God!" I've been trying to unwrap that one since I first read this book, since Matt's life doesn't enter the picture. And speaking of pictures, I gotta go, I've got tickets to a late-night showing of Sensational Crime Show ...

Yeah, but you can't really appreciate the nuance of the x-rated blood bath until the third viewing. 

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