(BOOM! Studios, 2014)
Created and Written by Max Bemis
Illustrated by Ransom Getty
Inks by Ryan Winn
Colored by Chris Blythe
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
I read a lot of comic books. Most of them are not books that I’ve been reading for years, whose history has been imprinted on me from a very young age. Most of the books I read on a monthly basis are new books from smaller studios like Boom!. (The exclamation point is part of the name…I then must use a period to complete the sentence. Darn you Word grammar check.) Often the basic concept of a book flees my mind the moment I begin reading something else. But sometimes, when I open up an issue 2 or issue 3, I am immediately transported back to the last page of the previous issue. Thank you Mr. Max Bemis and Co. for doing just that. (This forward was written after seeing only the first page of issue 2. Damn that was quick.)
Max Bemis (Polarity and A+X, front man for Say Anything) is writing a two-fold story in Evil Empire. One that happens in the twenty-five year distant dystopian future, and the other that happens in real time, at the point when I’m assuming everything goes to pot. Kenneth Laramy is the favorite in the presidential race and has just killed his wife. Bemis envisions a society where nothing is off limits, but every action has a price. He has spotlighted a most terrifying villain in Ken Laramy, because despite his murderous actions, he is beloved. He is a politician, learned in the ways of inspiring people, and can just as easily make those masses believe the wrong thing as the right. Anyone questioning Bemis’ ability to write needs only read this book and ask him or herself…how do I feel about Ken Laramy? Personally, Bemis makes you hate him all the more with the last page of this book, which is, of course, the perfect and (for the avid reader) worst way to end a story. (It’s as if he’s been watching all of these season-finales to the Walking Dead.) You just want one more page…one more chance for Reese to have a comeback. And that hunger for more is what will keep this book going.
Bemis has the interesting vantage point of being in the music industry, and uses that point of view convincingly when writing for Reese. She is a poet whose words have been stolen and repurposed. She is constantly being outmaneuvered by the politically and publicity savvy Laramy. Ooh. I really don’t like this guy.
Ransom Getty (Suicide Squad, War of the Green Lanterns) excels as well, keeping the panels interesting while Bemis’ words continue on. And they do continue on. This is an exceedingly wordy book, but that by no means takes away from the enjoyment of reading it, instead I think it has sucked me deeper into the rabbit hole with this one. Getty has a couple of big collage pages that really cut to the heart of the Laramy character while providing a framework for the dialogue that’s going on within them. It’s truly stellar work.
Max Bemis and Ransom Getty have hooked me into this political thriller, something I never thought I’d say when referring to a comic book. But that is, in essence, what this is. Bemis is looking at a morally corrupt future and the path that society took to get there. The terrifying thing about Evil Empire is how familiar it seems, and how easy it is to imagine that this could happen.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.