Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Martha Washington Saves the World

Frank Miller & Dave Gibbons
Martha Washington Saves the World (1999)

Last time I thought about it, Give Me Liberty seemed like the best thing Frank Miller had done - the jewel in the proverbial crown of a generally great writer; but the last time I thought about it was probably somewhere around the end of the previous century, back when I made a weekly trek to the local comics shop to buy this kind of thing. I haven't read any Frank Miller since then, and have accumulated a vague impression of him as the guy who wrote that comic about big-titted prostitutes getting murdered, and who courageously spoke up for the rights of corporate America as it stood defenceless against bearded Vegetarians with banners upon which hurtful remarks had been scrawled in angry letters. I believe the crux of Miller's argument ran thus:

Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy. Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you've been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you've heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism.

I'd take a guess and say his racist seventy-year old nan from Cheltenham probably wrote those words, filling in for her famous grandson while he was otherwise engaged in composing dialogue for fictional big-titted prostitutes, but I could be wrong. Furthermore, it turns out that Martha Washington Goes to War - which I seem to remember enjoying at least as much as I enjoyed Give me Liberty - is somehow based on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which can't be good.

Give Me Liberty is set in a dystopian future America - or the present, I suppose it might be argued - and follows the life of one of its most underprivileged and generally shat upon daughters. She somehow survives the ghetto, joins the peace corps, and makes her own way to er - greatness, I suppose. The broad appeal of the saga, at least for me, was the contrast of harsh political realism with the absurdity of events on the world stage spiralling out of control in  Martha Washington Goes to War, and then by the time we get to the final part, she's out in space meeting aliens. The narrative of this one is more or less a mash up of Rendezvous with Rama and 2001: A Space Odyssey, both by Arthur C. Clarke, so at least he's borrowing from the best.

Beyond these details, Martha's latest war is waged against Venus, a global artificial intelligence which now seems to control almost everything. As a story it's okay, but it doesn't quite do enough to keep my mind off the unsavoury possibility of this being some Libertarian rant about either the evils of socialism or the right to bear arms; and I can't tell if this is something Miller has embedded in the narrative, or just my reading it from a perspective other than that with which I read the earlier instalments. On the other hand, no big-titted prostitutes were eviscerated in the telling of this story and Dave Gibbons artwork is as gorgeous as it has ever been, so I guess it gets a thumbs up. All the same, I can't help wonder whether I've either missed something, or - on the other hand - might be overthinking it. As a strong, black female lead written without sexual overtones, Martha is great, but her story seems to have thinned out somewhat after the initial Give Me Liberty segment, and a little voice inside me keeps hinting that she might only ever have been Frank Miller's beard, in a manner of speaking; but like I say, maybe I'm overthinking it.

No comments:

Post a Comment